School of Support: Taking the Right Tone

Online communication is tricky. Jokes, sarcasm and irony don’t translate easily through text, so your intent can easily be misunderstood.

While emojis and GIFs certainly help, there’s still no sarcasm font, so you have to choose every word with thoughtfulness and care.

That’s why virtual tone is so important in customer service. You can’t set communication guidelines with customers (like you can for internal company communication), so every word and exclamation point counts.

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To demonstrate these challenges, and the solution we use on the Customers team at Help Scout, I’m teaching Leah on our People Ops team how to walk that fine line.

Lesson 1: More action, less apology


Don’t linger on your apology. Instead, focus your reply on action. Acknowledge the problem the customer is reporting, but spend most of your time focusing on what you’re going to do about it. Say you’re sorry when it’s genuine, empathize, then move on to solving the problem or giving them context to their issue.

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Lesson 2: Be direct


When a customer reports a bug, they’re likely pretty frustrated. For both the initial report and your follow-up, cut to the chase and don’t waste their time. Overtures, no matter how well intentioned, just delay the message, so keep your communication focused before adding any warm fuzzies.

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Lesson 3: Match your customers’ tone


Matching tone is a way to let the customer know you are on their side. If a customer is formal, for example, hang back with the LOLs. If they’re more casual, relax your tone too. Mirroring builds rapport and puts your customer at ease, reducing the amount of interpretation needed to understand what you’re trying to communicate.

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Does your team use a support style guide? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Abigail Phillips

Abigail Phillips

Abigail is on the customer success team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk that helps you build a company your customers love with more human, more helpful customer support tools.

Help Scout gives you the tools to serve customers in the most human, helpful way.

Better experience for your customers, fewer headaches for your team. You'll be set up in minutes.

“We ended up going with Help Scout because their support is really great. It's in line with our values and how we want support to be for our customers.” — Kristin Aardsma, Head of Support

School of Support: Taking the Right Tone


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