What Is Customer Service Language, and Why Does It Matter?

A woman drinking coffee, sitting at a counter inside a cafe.

When dealing with customers, the language you use is almost as important as the service you provide.

Language is a critical part of customer service. Customer service entails all the direct interactions a customer has with a brand when they need support. It is also a part of the larger customer experience since these interactions usually happen when the customer has a problem and is likely to be frustrated or angry. Making sure their customer experience ends up being a good one depends on the quality of service they will receive, of course; but the language used to deliver that service is just as important.

According to the Zendesk CX Trends Report:

75% of customers are willing to spend more to buy from businesses that give them a good customer experience.

Understanding how the brain works

The internet is teeming with advice on the best customer service language to adopt. And it all boils down to one thing: understanding how the human brain is wired. For instance, we process verb firsts, which is why "Keep clear" works better than "Don't touch", with toddlers and full-grown adults alike. Empathy is another key thing: it is the main enabler of our species' evolution because it allows us to learn by imitation, and is thus paramount to how we function as a group.

"We humans, are so sensitive to positive words that they can physiologically alter our brains."

As explain researchers Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman in their book Words Can Change Your Brain. And while we enjoy being talked to in a friendly, relaxed manner, the second we're denied something, the casualness is perceived as rude. Customer service expert Adam Toporek describes how, according to a Software Advice survey, 65% of online customers prefer a casual tone to a formal one, but 78% resent it when the agent denies their request.

Customer service is a human interaction

Ultimately, people just want to feel heard and understood. So to provide the best customer experience, the best practices are:

  • Use positive verbs (instead of negative ones)

  • Empathising genuinely with a customer's frustration goes a long way

  • Saying you're "happy to help” changes the way they experience the interaction

  • Maintaining the right distance will make you seem both professional and friendly

Learn more about the most important soft skills for CS teams.

This doesn't mean that customer service agents should tiptoe around a customer's emotions; it just means that customer service language is at its best when it feels human.

Putting this into practice

Your customer support team is your biggest asset. They are the empathetic humans you rely on to provide excellent customer service, so make sure they’re up-to-date on your brand’s tone of voice and provide them with template responses to common problems that use best practices for customer service language.

Better yet, instead of letting your team get bogged down by answering the same repetitive inquiries over and over (you don’t need much of a human touch to answer questions about a delivery date or how to change a phone number a hundred times a day), review your most common inquiries and determine where a virtual agent could be helpful in answering your customers’ FAQs. 

Check out our Customer Support Academy module on customer service automation 101.

This allows your human agents to focus on more challenging cases, and they can give the empathetic customer support they were hired to provide. The best virtual agents feel like you’re speaking to a human, so be sure to train it as you would a live agent, and keep our customer service language tips in mind while building dialogue flows.

 

See customer service best practices in 2022