The Importance of Being Earnest

You’ll build more loyalty by being a real person. Honest.

Every now and then you come across a classic line on the web.

A few days ago, I was using the live chat help services at iQVC. First, that little pop-up box opened up with the text, “Hello, Nick, how may I help you today?”

During the course of my short online chat with Kiran P. of iQVC, Kiran said, “Thank you for using iQVC and have a wonderful day.”

Being the occasional cynic that I am, I replied, “Dang it, Kiran P., for a minute I thought you were a real person. Admit it, you just dragged and dropped that last reply, didn’t you?”

You know how it works. When you handle live chat from the customer service end, you know that most folks ask the same questions. So you prepare a bunch of ready-made answers and sign offs, then drag and drop them as required. The trouble with this approach is that the dragged-and-dropped replies usually don’t ring true. One reply doesn’t fit the many different ways in which customers may frame what is essentially the same question. So the customer is left with the nagging feeling that they’ve just been interacting with a really smart computer or something. It just doesn’t feel right.

Anyway, I misjudged Kiran P. He replied, “I’m a real person. Honest.”

What a great line. “I’m a real person. Honest.”

Now here’s what I figure you might want to do:

  • Have that quotation printed on a sticker, poster, mug, or desk plaque. Keep it in plain sight of everyone in your organization who interacts with customers by phone, email, or live chat.

  • Prepare a leaflet or brochure that explains to your front-line customer service people the importance of being a “real person” in the online world.

There’s a great need here. I’ve heard from a number of companies how hard they find it to get customer service agents who are skilled in text-based customer interactions. It seems relatively easy to find people who come across as real when talking on the phone, but it’s not so easy to find those same skills when it comes to the written word.

How do you train people to write emails or live chat responses that sound personal, genuine, and one on one?

I don’t know any ready-made solutions out there right now. If you know of any, I’d love to hear about them. If you don’t, maybe I should write a guide or teach a course on the subject. Let me know if you think that would be valuable for you. If there’s a demand…

In the meantime, here are a few tips that might help your customer service agents who interact with customers by email and text-based live chat.

  • Write in the same way you speak. You shouldn’t write as if you were writing a report, school essay, or resume. When you write in a style that is closest to how you speak, you’ll automatically come across more like a person and less like an automated FAQ service.

  • Use short words, and write short sentences. That’s how we talk. It sounds more natural that way. Don’t stress over sentence construction and every grammatical detail. Not necessary.
  • Discourage drag-and-drop answers. The consumers will almost always get a sense that the answer provided was not freshly written for them. In addition, the use of drag and drop has the effect of separating your agents from the customer. It creates a barrier. The customer senses it, and the agent isn’t interacting one on one any more, so he or she mentally withdraws from the customer as an individual. Bad thing.

And what’s the benefit of improved text-based interactions? Increased loyalty to your business.

When Kiran P. showed himself to be a “real person,” I felt good about him and iQVC. And when you get a customer feeling good about your company, there’s some real value there.

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