Please don’t hesitate to contact a member of staff.
There it is again. That strange fragment of verbal filigree suspended meaninglessly at the end of every on-board announcement or official response. I often wonder what circumstances might make me hesitate to contact a member of staff. Heavily armed and hostile customer service agents perhaps? Both hands caught in a loom? And what would happen if, OMG, I actually did hesitate… I really, really wanted to contact a member of staff, but I hesitated. Now, surely, all is lost.
OK, maybe I’m being a bit sensitive here. But then as a writer, I spend a lot of time with businesses and brands trying to impress upon them the importance of not talking or writing like a starchy corporate. Rather, we encourage them to use language in a way that’s natural and human. Often, that means rooting out those tired old phrases that might once have brought victory in a school letter-writing competition, but which now tend to sound frankly a bit pompous. The “please don’t hesitates”, the “with regard tos”, the “apologies for any inconvenience caused”. I mean, come off it. When you put it like that, you’re not really sorry at all, are you? And as a customer, that makes me feel a bit short-changed.
Now, it’s widely understood that in business we must be resolutely customer focused, so it’s a mystery how formalese of this kind persists. If you really want to engage with people, then surely the words you use should be one of the first things you think about. Mind your language and not only will customers recognise and remember you, chances are you’ll notice a few tangible benefits besides.
One of our clients, a well-known energy provider, recently asked us to look at their call centre scripts. By re-structuring these and re-writing them so their agents were given permission to speak naturally and informally, we managed to reduce average call times by 50%. And, we found customers were far less likely to hang up part way through.
Again, when confectionery giant Nestlé asked us to work with their customer service teams to warm up their responses to complaints, they saw a marked increase in customer satisfaction. Within 6 months, 46% of customers reported they were “delighted” with the responses they received – a rise of 17%.
The numbers confirm it; the words really matter. So come on you corporates, ditch the overwrought lingo and say it like you mean it. And if you need any help with that, get in touch. Don’t hesitate, just get in touch.