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Personalised letters, tick. Approved list of empathetic phrases (including ‘I’d love to help you with that today’), tick. Think you’ve got this emotional connection malarkey nailed?
There’s more to connecting with people emotionally than mail merging their first name into things. And empathy isn’t sounding friendly, or just repeating back what somebody’s already told you.
Still, there’s been a lot of that going on lately, which means customers have got savvy and expect more. So, if your approach to personalisation is collecting data and regurgitating it back to customers at key touchpoints, you’re probably not going to build lasting connections.
Empathy is talking to customers about the things they care about
Not what’s important to you. And it’s about doing it consistently, even when you’re delivering bad news and dealing with complaints.
For example, we helped BT change their approach to handling complaints. We encouraged their agents to step away from templated scripts and stock responses, and think about how they’d feel in the customer’s shoes. And repeat complaints dropped from 28% to less than 20%.
It’s not just a nice to have. It can make and save you money
We helped a big energy company sound the same in their debt letters as they did in their everyday messages. So people didn’t feel like they were suddenly being treated like criminals for falling behind on their payments. And they were less scared to get in touch to sort it out. The result? Ten percent more people got out of debt.
All this from putting the customer first and using words that make them feel you understand them (and are human beings too).
We’ve learnt a few things about empathy over the years
We’ve spent 15 years helping clients make their words more efficient, empathetic, distinctive and consistent. So we’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright strange along the way. Check out our blog on the Ten ways you absolutely, definitely shouldn’t do CX to find out more.
Plus, come and see us at Technova Connected Customer 2018, Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th July. We’ll be on the CX Leaders stage at 2.40pm on Tuesday 3rd, talking about why your language is your customer experience. Or you can pop by our stand for a chat any time.
The General Data Protection Regulation comes in on 25th May and the new privacy rules have got marketers in a bit of a flap. That's no surprise when you read the document itself. It’s opaque and chock-full of jargon.
Here are three tips for doing that.
1. Show people you care
Privacy is a hot topic lately. So GDPR is an excellent opportunity to do things right and earn your customers’ trust. You can do that by writing clearly and focusing on what matters to your reader.
- Keep it concise.
- If you’re asking the reader to do something, make it clear.
- Point out what you’re doing to help.
Facebook missed a trick here in their press ad. (Whoops.)
Notice how it’s ‘the regulation’ that will protect you, not Facebook. There’s a passive remark that ‘you will be asked’ something at some point, which is confusing and vague. And to add insult to injury, the call to action seems to be ‘go and read the full text of GDPR when you’ve got a sec’.
2. Fix the formality
The text of the GDPR itself is heavy going. Take this snippet for example:
The arrangement referred to in paragraph 1 shall duly reflect the respective roles and relationships of the joint controllers vis-à-vis the data subjects. The essence of the arrangement shall be made available to the data subject.
3. Spring clean your content strategy
As marketers contact their mailing lists asking them to re-register, it’s judgement day for repetitive, boring communications. Now’s the perfect time to rethink your strategy so you can send messages of quality, not quantity, to the loyal people who’ve stuck around.
That means thinking beyond the Easter egg gif for cracking deals in April. Instead, start planning your messages around what’s important to your reader. For example, a small business owner will usually be interested in a new government budget announcement. So that could be your cue to get in touch.
Speaking of emails… You can sign up to our semi-regular eThing.
Hello, we’re The Writer, the world’s biggest language consultancy.
We’re looking for people who get nerdy about words to come to our two-day Word Experience (in London) on Thursday 12th and Friday 13th April 2018.
You might be a student, or someone who's always been keen on the idea of a career in writing, but isn't sure how.
If you like what you read, be sure to send us your application by Friday 23rd March. (You’ll see how to get in touch a bit further down.)
What’s ‘Word Experience’?
We get a lot of requests from people wanting to come on work experience. But we’ve always felt work experience was pretty unsatisfactory all round: we can’t help many people in a year; you inevitably end up doing quite a bit of boring stuff; and, if we’re honest, it’s a lot of work to do well. (And who wants to do it badly?)
So we cooked up Word Experience: we gather about 20 people together for two days of creativity, workshops and fun stuff. Along the way we’ll talk to you about how you can make a career out of writing for business, show you how our agency works, and some Writer folk will tell you their own stories of how they got into business writing. All to show you there’s a career for people who like words that isn’t publishing or journalism.
Then we usually pick two people from each year to come back and join us for a short paid internship. (And some of those have ended up working here.)
Keep reading if:
You already write for your course
Maybe you study English, journalism or creative writing. Or maybe you just write a lot of essays. (You don't have to be a student, though - maybe you just love writing.)
You write in your spare time too
You might write for your student paper, a blog, or fiction. It doesn’t matter, as long as you write.
You’re a bit of a word geek
You have a tendency to get excited or properly riled up by all kinds of writing. From tube ads to tubes of toothpaste, Booker Prize winners to Charlie Brooker.
Yes that’s me. What do I need to do?
Head to our application page and send us 300 words telling us why we should pick you (and a way for us to get in touch with you). And get it to us by Friday 23rd March.
Here’s what previous Word Experiencers have said:
‘Word experience is, in a nutshell, the workshop we all should have done ages ago. Finally it feels like there’s a company out there who is trying to show you how to turn what you love, into what you do. Those two days in London opened my eyes to an industry I was surrounded by and yet unaware of, it gave me a whole new appreciation for marketing, for words and for the people who write them.’
‘Hands-on activities included the sorts of word games that seem like harmless entertainment while you do them, but come loaded with Karate Kid-style moments of realisation that detonate later on. The other day I was struggling over an email to a tutor, then something clicked and (wax on, wax off) I realised I could cut out half the words to make it cleaner and clearer.’
It’s that time of year again. Tinsel, turkey and, um, trend forecasting. The number crunchers at Foresight Factory have come up with a corker: in 2018, customers will choose brands that sound more human and empathise more.
Not to blow our own trumpet (well, maybe a bit), but we’ve been banging on about this for years. How talking like a real person and putting your readers’ needs first is good for business.
Luckily there are loads of chances for brands to show they’re run by real people. Face to face (obvs). TV ads. Web chats. Emails. Twitter.
But people often struggle to be their real selves when they write for work. They sound formal. They use tried and tested phrases that show they weren’t really listening. And they miss chances to build relationships.
We’ve found that it’s well worth breaking those habits and trying to write more like we speak. In fact, we once helped BT save £500,000 just by rewriting one paragraph of a call centre script.
Still need convincing? Find out what happened when our Harry challenged Dave Gorman on matters of writing like you speak… and how it helped O2 come out of a crisis smelling of roses.
And don’t wait for 2018 to get started. Next time you write something, try letting your human side show. Change words for ones you’d use when you’re speaking to a customer face to face. It’ll only take a couple of minutes and can totally change the way the reader feels about you.
We’re an opinionated bunch, here at The Writer. If you’ve ever worked with us, you’ll know we’ve got no time for things like buzzwords, or boring, formal writing.
But we know we’re in a bubble. We think about words all day, every day. On the plus side, that means we know our stuff. But on the minus, there’s always a danger that we’ll lose touch with how real people think.
So we teamed up with Nielsen and two well-known FMCG brands, let’s call them Soothe and Sport, to put our theories to the test.
We got our hands on one product concept each for Soothe and Sport. They’d already run the concepts through testing and both had got the worst possible result: ‘probable failure’.
We rewrote them both in three ways: one neutral, one in the Soothe tone of voice, one in the Sport tone of voice.
We wanted to see if good writing could improve a product concept’s performance in testing. And we also had a hunch that Soothe customers would prefer the Soothe tone of voice, and Sport customers would prefer the Sport tone of voice.
What we found
Good writing makes a disproportionately big difference. Our best-performing concept doubled the overall result of the previous version. (And each concept took us about 20 minutes to rewrite.)
Loyal customers prefer writing that’s in the brand’s tone of voice. The concept in the Soothe tone of voice was most popular with Soothe buyers.
Clear writing beats concise writing. Our best-performing concept was actually a little longer than the original. And a version we chopped right down ended up failing the clarity part of the test.
Metaphor works. As part of the testing, people had to click anything they particularly liked. The phrase that got the most love was this: The clay inside acts like a sponge.
People need to know what ingredients are for. The original Soothe concept talked about moisturising cream and vitamin B3, but left it there. In our rewrites, we gave the benefits attached to those ingredients, and took the result for the ‘credibility’ scale from bottom marks to top marks.
You can explain away people’s worries. The Sport product contains clay. After the original test, people were worried it would stain their clothes and clog their pores. In our versions, we named those worries and explained why they were unfounded. Nobody had any worries about the clay.