10

Don't spend lots of time and money changing your systems, only to throw in the same old words at the last minute

CX people – rightly – spend lots of their time getting rid of hairy old systems and replacing them with something state-of-the-art.

But if you fill your super-slick new system with the corporate blah you had before, you’re not going to get the bang for the buck that you should.

As one of our clients says:

‘You don’t buy a Ferrari and run it on dishwater.’

9

Don't treat empathy as a check-box exercise

There’s more to connecting with people emotionally than mail-merging their first name into the subject line of an email. And it isn’t empathetic when you just repeat what somebody’s already told you. If your approach to personalization focuses on collecting data and regurgitating it back to customers, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

Instead…

We helped BT change their approach to handling complaints. We encouraged their agents to step away from templates and stock responses, and think about how they’d feel in the customer’s shoes.

Repeat complaints dropped 28%.

8

Don't sound like a different company every time someone deals with you

Can you say, with hand on heart, that the same care and attention goes into everything you write? From a customer’s point of view, your Ts&Cs are just as much a part of their customer experience as the front page of your website and your call centers. So why should they believe the polished stuff is more representative of what you’re really like than anything else?

Instead…

One of our clients, a big retail bank, were convinced that a humdrum administrative letter was destined to be always ignored by customers.

We rewrote it to fit their tone of voice, and response rates jumped 900%.

(People even had to come in over lunch to open envelopes.)

7

Don't sound especially different when you’re giving bad news

It’s easy enough to make your writing empathetic when everything’s looking rosy. But what happens to your language when you have to tell people things you know they won’t be happy to hear? That’s where principles go out of the window, and cold corporate formality comes back with a vengeance.

Instead...

We helped a big energy company sound the same in their debt letters as they did in their regular correspondence. So people didn’t feel like they were suddenly being treated like criminals for falling behind on their payments. 

‘10% more people got out of debt and back into the black.’ 

6

Don't let your techies write everything vaguely technical

Of course, they have to have a say in what you produce. But they’re techies because they’re experts, and experts tend to find it tricky to bridge the gap to what regular people will understand. 

Instead...

One of our clients had an incomprehensible user guide that made one in five people phone the call center because they were confused by the tech-speak. 

‘After we rewrote the guide, calls dropped from 20% to less than 2%.’ 

5

Don't let your lawyers write everything vaguely legal

Sure, they should be advising you on what you can say and what you can’t. But if they get to dictate the wording, you might well end up with something that’s legally sound, but not very human.

Instead…

At BT, someone we trained decided to rewrite a legal-sounding bit of their call center script. He made it much more customer-friendly, and several seconds shorter, too.

Which saved BT a ton of call-handling time. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth, in fact, for one little rewrite. Since then, they’ve rewritten plenty more scripts, and saved millions.

4

Don't give final sign-off to someone who doesn’t deal with customers

Even if the lawyers don’t hold the pen, plenty of companies let them have the final say on what words they use. And nothing ruins a fine bit of writing like inserting a direct quote from page 14, paragraph 7, subsection 3iii of the Internal External Policy Guidelines.

Instead…

At BT, their head of brand language has final sign-off on all customer communications.

Nothing goes out of the door that isn’t focused on what the reader needs.

3

Don't jump on every social media bandwagon

There’s nothing more cringeworthy than a business trying to ride on the coat-tails of a meme. Or, on the hunt for clicks, latching on to a big public event that has nothing to do with them.

Instead…

Make sure your social media reflects what you stand for as a brand.

Like O2, whose ‘Choose your own Twitter adventure’ captured what the brand was all about, and got engagement rates of 117%.

(Twitter sales director Bruce Daisley said rates like that were ‘unheard of’’)

2

Don't bury the good stuff under an avalanche of drivel

We have more to read than ever before, less time to read it in, and tiny screens to read it on. The internet has made us ‘selfish, lazy and ruthless’ (according to the granddaddy of UX, Dr Jakob Nielsen), and if we don’t get what we want straight away, we move on.

So you need to cut to the chase.

Instead…

A big professional services firm we work with gets paid for their opinions, but long-winded reports were making those opinions hard to spot. After we changed their approach to writing, one of their clients said:

‘It used to take me two bottles of wine to get through one of your reports. I got through this one in under a glass.’

1

Don't sound just like your competitors

You sell roughly the same products as your rivals. Offer roughly the same services, too. So what makes you stand out? Is it that you’re passionate, innovative, and put the customer at the heart of everything you do?

They say the exact same thing. When you’re competing on experience, don’t let a huge part of that experience feel just like everyone else’s.

Instead…

We got 2,000 people to blind-test some real writing from Ryanair, British Airways and Virgin against our own made-up The Writer airline. They have distinctive brands but, with the visuals taken away they were all saying pretty much the same bland things. Our version pushed the personality in writing, and stood out from the crowd.

When we asked people if they’d stay loyal to that brand purely based on the writing, around 20% said 'yes' to each of the big three airlines – people just couldn’t tell the difference between them. Whereas 42% would stay with ours. (And we don’t even have any planes.)

22% more people would stay loyal to the brand if their language was better.

And if we've missed anything....