Creative & Copywriting: Copywriter as Your Customer Service Ambassador
I recently came upon an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about how we, as consumers, feel about customer service. And frankly, the score isn't good for most companies selling products and services.
Now, some of the issues that create poor customer service are about company policies, such as short return deadlines (which, incidentally, often increase returns and create customer mistrust). Some customer service issues also occur as a result of business acquisitions. Who hasn't felt dissatisfied over some internet provider that's changed hands, and now you don't know who to turn to for help?
Great customer service can't be all about what's convenient for you — it must be about the comfort and convenience of your customers and how you can serve them best. To have truly satisfied customers, quality communication is imperative.
Yes, communication costs time and money, but customers are the golden egg you've worked so hard to acquire! Loyal customers are cultivated by a mix of clear, honest communication and outstanding merchandise assortments.
What's That Have to
Do With Copywriting?
When it comes to customer service, most companies are ham-handed when communicating with customers by phone and email. We've seen plenty of emails that are uninspired and obviously treat a customer like a number, not a member of the family. And when your customers see that from you, they "get it": "You don't care." And they'll take their business to someone they think may care more.
Automated letters to unhappy customers are often so poorly done they finish off what remained of an already fragile relationship.
Other examples of addled customer service messaging can be found in call centers. Without carefully scripted and well-practiced communication, your call-center reps' contacts with customers can be uncomfortable and even off-putting.
The article I mentioned made special note of recorded messages as another annoyance. They're often the first line of communication people hear when they call you.
Nobody wants to hear an automated voice that says, "Please stay on the line, your call is very important to us," followed by the news that the wait will be no longer than 30 minutes. Customers see this lack of preparation as an indication that you don't really consider them important after all.
Now, the first person who thought to tell customers their calls were important in an automated voice message was pretty smart. It was unique at that point. But to be considered a sincere message, it must be backed by sincere effort.
Fixing Customer Service with Copywriting
A few innovative companies combine sincere, well-written messaging with technology to solve problems more successfully. One I recently called suggested it could easily call me back — plus it offered me the chance to stay in the queue. The language was agreeable, saying, "We hate to keep you waiting, and we're so sorry for our backup of calls. Would you prefer to have us call you back, rather than your having to wait? Would that be more convenient for you?" And the most convenient aspect of this was, I didn't even need to input my phone number for them to call back. These smart folks used technology to help customers feel their calls really were important, and used better copywriting to warm potentially cooling relationships.
Some companies employ great customer service using a right-on-target "voice" when the customer calls. Southwest Airlines does a pretty good job keeping you entertained during your wait with a combination of offers, songs, stories and more. You can tune it out if you want, or enjoy it while you wait. This carefully crafted copywriting maintains a voice and message that's true to the brand's personality.
One company that's a little less colorful but still right on target is New Pig. While New Pig sells some pretty serious solutions for safety, industrial spills and more, it approaches customers with a consistent, unique, lighthearted voice. And it keeps the good vibes going with a phone message that ends, "Thanks for giving New Pig a squeal."
It may not be all that obvious — the idea of hiring a real, honest-to-goodness copywriter to develop helpful customer service messaging. In fact, often clients have their call centers handle messaging. But this could be put in the same category as having an IT guy design your e-commerce website. Yes, the task is taken care of, but most times it's abysmally off target.
Some time ago, Neiman Marcus and Jackson & Perkins both hired one of my fellow creatives, Otis Maxwell, to write all their call-center scripts and customer service letters. The time, effort and budgets provided a solid foundation that carried the companies' messages through written and verbal communication to customers who require extra care.
A solid copywriter with an understanding of how company culture and customers gel will develop messaging that doesn't sound stodgy or insulting to your customer. That writer spends time speaking to customers, exploring and understanding your brand, and even listening to customer service calls. They'll even request a look at any customer research to learn how your customers wish to be spoken to. You can get the most bang for your buck by having your direct marketing copywriter actually do this task, because your copywriter has already put in the time to get to know your customers well.
Carol Worthington-Levy is creative partner at LENSER, a multichannel direct marketing firm (carol.worthington- email@example.com).