customer service voice

The Importance of Customer Service Voice

In customer service, service reps are speaking with customers day in, day out. And it’s important to remember that it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. 

catherine heath

July 11, 2022

7 mins read

In customer service, service reps are speaking with customers day in, day out. And it’s important to remember that it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. 

As the famous quote from Maya Angelou goes: 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Customer service voice really matters when it comes to interacting with customers, whether that’s on the phone, via email, or over live chat. It’s not all about the words you choose, rather the manner in which you deliver what you want to say. 

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Customers are highly sensitive to tone of voice, and as a customer, wouldn’t you rather talk to a caring and friendly rep as opposed to an impatient and cold one? 

Customer service reps should always bear in mind how they are coming across to customers. It’s the difference between positive experiences and negative experiences, and has the power to win you over loyal customers. 

What is tone of voice in customer service?

Tone of voice is the unspoken content of your communication with customers. Words certainly contribute to customer service voice, and it is the embodiment of your personality as a brand. 

If you think about music, consider that words are the lyrics to a song, while tone of voice is the rhythm and melody. Words are processed in the left-hand side of your brain while tone is processed on the right-hand side.  

Since customers are processing words and tone of voice separately, it’s important to make sure they match. 

Companies often put a lot of effort into tone of voice for marketing materials, but fall short when it comes to customer service. They may come across as dry and disinterested, as agents read off scripts and rattle through tickets. 

Customer service voice, like all communication, has the ability to evoke emotions in your customers, whether positive or negative. 

The importance of tone of voice in customer service

Tone of voice is critically important in customer service. In 1967, Albert Mehrabian defined the “7 percent–38 percent–55 percent” rule which states that communication can be broken down into three separate parts, when it comes to conveying a sense of feeling and emotion. 

  • Words (7 percent)
  • Tone of voice (38 percent)
  • Body language (55 percent)

Note that body language is the most important part of communication, specifically facial expressions, but when using customer service channels customers cannot see your body. Customer service interactions are happening through a screen or over the phone. That means customer service voice becomes even more critical to delivering the right message, which influences the way that customers interpret your words. 

When you strike the right tone of voice, service reps come across as professional and yet still caring. 

A friendly tone builds rapport with a customer, creating the right impression for your business. Customers get to feel like they are speaking with a real human instead of a robot, and their customer service interaction becomes more pleasurable and memorable as a result. They won’t have to fight to get their problem solved because the service rep has conveyed that they care about the issue with a helpful tone. 

Customer service voice distinguishes you from the competition. Most companies haven’t mastered brand voice in customer service, but having consistency and individuality in your communications distinguishes your business from the herd. Customers benefit from a unique customer experience. 

A compassionate tone can help to calm angry customers who are looking for an instant fix for their problem. Putting just a little effort into tone of voice can diffuse a tense situation and reassure the customer that the company actually cares. Customers won’t have another complaint about indifferent service reps to add to their list of grievances. 

When service reps speak politely to rude customers, this resets the conversation and shows the customer that their behavior is inappropriate. Using your own tone of voice to shape the customer service interaction is an important way to remind rude customers that they are speaking to someone who is trying to help. 

Proper tone of voice, therefore, helps you retain customers. Customers feel loyal to people, not faceless businesses. 89% of customers are likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience, so it’s worth taking the time to get this right. 

How to shape your customer service tone

Consider the context

Tone of voice should be shaped depending on the context. Each situation calls for a different tone of voice, so for example when your company must deliver bad news to a customer it’s best to stay away from a more casual tone. 

According to research, 78% of customers prefer a more formal attitude when companies are having to deny their request. Most customers would be offended if companies adopted a jokey manner when delivering bad news. It’s important to be sensitive and be flexible based on the situation. 

Always, always be aware of context when striking your customer service tone of voice. It can drastically alter how your communications will be received. 

Adapt based on customer service channel

As a more traditional channel of communication, email could be considered a more formal channel than relatively new mediums like live chat. With live chat, there is an immediacy that seems to allow for a shorter and more direct tone than an email, which reps would usually take more time to craft. 

When on phone calls to customers, you have more resources at your disposal to be able to modulate your tone of voice. You can use inflections and literally adjust your tone of voice to come across in a more positive tone. A joke that would sound rude in support emails just might be appropriate when you can speak it out loud. When you hear a person speak it’s much easier to gauge tone. 

Adjust your customer service tone of voice depending on the different channels you’re using. Customers may be expecting a particular style of customer service interaction. 

Pay attention to punctuation and grammar

When using written forms of communication, punctuation and grammar are the primary ways to convey tone of voice. An exclamation point can be the difference between a message that sounds enthusiastic and engaged rather than bored and disinterested. 

At the same time, going overboard with the punctuation or sprinkling in heaps of emojis looks rather unprofessional. It’s important to toe the line between friendly and like you’re not taking your job seriously. 

Always opt for shorter sentences when communicating in written form. You don’t want to lose your customers by rambling on and on. 

Match the customer

A good rule of thumb is to pay attention to how the customer is interacting and match your tone of voice to their style. If a customer addresses you informally, you know that it’s safe to be a bit more casual in your communication. If a customer emails in with a “Dear Sir or Madam”, you know you should respond in kind so you and the customer are on the same page. 

If you think you might be dealing with a customer who speaks English as a foreign language, you know you should stay away from slang and be mindful of how you phrase your responses. Of course, if the customer is angry, you should avoid matching their tone of voice and try to come across as compassionate and caring. 

With practice, it will become much easier to read customers and react appropriately to how they’re feeling. This will make your reps’ communication a lot more sensitive. 

Customer service tone of voice tips

Casual versus formal tone

65% of customers prefer a casual tone when interacting with customer support. As a rule of thumb, you can be assured that customers want to speak in an everyday conversational style, which will put them most at ease and streamline the customer service interaction. Of course, formality will vary from business to business and a casual style may be more appropriate for a t-shirt company rather than a law firm. It should be judged case-by-case depending on the professional setting. 

Aim to be human

When interacting with customers, be sure to stick to normal language that you would usually hear spoken during a conversation in order to strike the right tone. Don’t say “I’ll remedy the situation” when “I’ll fix the problem for you” will do. This means speaking in active voice to make your responses more immediate. Instead of saying “There was a bug in our system” you could say “Our system had a bug”. Customers don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a robot or they may feel like your company just doesn’t care. 

Avoid overused phrases

Try to be original when you’re talking to customers. They’re hyper-sensitive to overused cliches like “your call is important to us” and “We’re sorry for your inconvenience”. When faced with hackneyed phrases like that, customers certainly don’t feel important or believe that you’re really sorry. Saying something like, “Thanks for holding, I’ll transfer you to my colleague who is the best person to handle this situation” is much more human and friendly. If you strive to be genuine in your interactions, you know you’ll get the best response from customers. 

Ditch the royal “we”

Since they’re representing a company, customer service reps often feel like they have to use “we” instead of “I”. The problem with this approach is that it can seem as though your agents are avoiding taking responsibility for the situation. “We’re sorry you’re having a bad experience” is not nearly as powerful as “I’m sorry this happened to you. It’s far below the standards our company aims for.” Using the word “I” makes your agents feel more empowered and again, reassures the customer they are speaking with a real person who can help solve their problem. 

Speak positively

Especially in a tense situation, it’s important to use positive language that will leave a better impression on your customers. Words like “but” or “actually” can get customers’ backs up and make your customer service team seem less helpful. Instead of saying “Sorry, you are no longer eligible for a refund,” is much more disheartening than saying, “I can offer you store credit rather than a refund. Would you like to go ahead?” 

Make suggestions rather than giving orders

When you are too direct in advising your customers, it can make your tone seem condescending. Customers may already feel bad about having to contact your service team, so it’s much better if you can cooperate with them rather than instructing them. Instead of saying, “Turn the device off and on again,” replace this with “Could you try turning your device off and on again and see if this helps?” 

Wrapping up

As Maya Angelou noted, we should be paying attention to how customers feel when we talk to them. A big part of creating emotional resonance in a conversation is the right tone of voice, the way in which you deliver the words you want to say. A seemingly small change in tone can significantly enhance your customer service and result in customers who are much happier with your brand. 

Your tone of voice will be unique to your company’s brand identity and make you stand out from the crowd. A consistent tone across your brand is something that customers will learn to recognize during each customer experience. 

When customers know there’s another human on the other end of the line, they’ll be much more disposed to behave well and to forgive your company any mistakes. Tone of voice goes a long way to appeasing customers who are complaining and reassuring them that your company wishes to make amends. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at

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