I recently purchased an air purifier for my small apartment room. After three weeks of shipping mishaps, it finally arrived ... broken. I called the customer service department and the representative told me that I would need to send it back for verification and the process would take four to six weeks. I asked for a refund and made a new purchase from a different business.
When I talk to a service representative, I want someone who will take the time to understand my issue and provide a solution to the best of their ability. I’m probably not alone here, right?
What we’re looking for is an advocate. We want someone to advocate for our needs by prioritizing our issues and providing adequate solutions. We want impressive service that inspires us to continue purchasing from a business because we know they have our best interests in mind.
It’s crucial for customer service representatives to understand how to give consumers the experiences they desire. One way to do this is by using advocacy language. So, let’s walk through how to implement an advocacy approach to customer service — and cover how it will benefit your business.
What is advocacy language?
Advocacy language is a term used to describe how customer service representatives communicate with customers by using language that prioritizes customer satisfaction and issue resolution. During these interactions, the language and words being used have positive connotations that help customer service representatives focus on being customer-centric.
In practice, using advocacy language can be as simple as saying something like, “Thank you! We really appreciate your business.” Although it seems basic, it conveys genuine care for customers and lets them know that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to solve their issues because you care about their experience.
Let’s face it. Your customers likely have a lot of options when choosing a product or service that meets their needs. Advocacy language can set your business apart from your competitors by offering a superior customer service experience.
Incorporating advocacy language into your customer service playbook, in turn, encourages customers to become advocates for your business, as satisfied consumers are more likely to become loyal buyers that recommend you to others. For example, 69% of U.S. adults shop more with retailers that have consistent customer service.
When I reached out to customer service for help replacing my broken air purifier, they were unhelpful and only recommended a process that would add even more wait time to an already delayed order. I still love their products, but the negative experience has led me to do business with a different company.
Given the impact of negative support experiences on consumer purchasing decisions, the words and phrases you use during support conversations can make or break an interaction with a customer. Let’s go over a few of the best practices for using advocacy language in your interactions with customers.
Use positive language.
A crucial part of advocacy language is positive language. This means using words and phrases that communicate genuine compassion and care for your customers, which lets them know that you value the course of their experience with your business.
For example, a common customer service problem stems from misunderstandings between customers and representatives. Saying “That’s not what I said,” or “You misheard me,” carries negative connotations that make customers feel like you’re blaming them for the issue rather than helping them understand.
Instead, saying, “What I’m hearing you say is [XYZ]. Is that correct?” conveys the same meaning but doesn’t place blame on your customer. Instead, it shows that you’re trying to understand their perspective.
When you say this, you’re also reinforcing the legitimacy of their reason for contacting you. You’re not blaming customers for being confused, and restating their problem shows them that you’re listening.
The second phrase is also significantly more positive than the first, and it can set the course of the rest of the interaction and keep the conversation moving forward. Continuing with the first phrase may cause a customer to get frustrated, hang up, and decide not to work with you in the future.
Maintain a consistent tone.
Maintaining a consistent tone when troubleshooting support issues is extremely important, especially in face-to-face and over-the-phone interactions. Customers will likely feel confused about your conversation and your intentions if you switch between different delivery styles.
Think of it like this: Consider the difference between saying “Anything else?” versus “Is there anything else I can help you with?” to a customer. The first one seems cold and closed off and even makes it seem like all you want to do is get off the phone and move on to something else. The second phrase uses positive, helpful language, and its tone is caring while remaining professional.
Be brief, but not curt.
People reach out to customer service representatives because they want quick solutions to their issues. Thus, great customer support means quickly and expertly solving customer problems as they arise.
Regardless of how incredible your support walk-throughs are, customers don’t want to spend time reading pages and pages of support instructions. Long responses may make customers feel as though you’re wasting their time.
When writing support responses, keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point, so you show the customer that you recognize the timeliness of their issues. Keep in mind, though, that being brief doesn’t mean curt. Follow the practices above of using positive language and using a consistent tone.
When speaking to customers over the phone or face-to-face, maintain a similar practice. Ask clarifying questions, so you understand the extent of their issues and present answers that help them arrive at clear solutions.
For example, maybe a customer is having a problem turning on a fan they’ve bought from you. The fan might have various functions and capabilities, but they just want to know how to turn it on.
Focus your response on helping them address that issue, and only provide further explanations as supplementary information. Knowing how to turn on the fan will likely lead them to figure out its additional functions.
If your service representatives are coming across repeat support requests for the same issue, consider creating a business-specific knowledge base where you compile frequently asked questions and detailed solutions.
Instead of waiting for your service rep to reply to their email or pick up the phone, a customer can navigate to your knowledge base and find a helpful solution to their issue straight away.
However, being brief doesn’t mean that you should abandon accessibility. No matter how short your responses are, whether over the phone or online, strive to ensure that your support content is accessible. Refrain from using colloquial language that everyone might not understand or give advanced descriptions that require significant technical knowledge. For example, if you’re a service representative for a computer company, you likely know all of the technical jargon that explains how the computers work.
If you’re on a support call with a customer walking them through the process of updating their computer and you say “Ok, now try to reboot your operating system,” you might be met with silence and then a “Huh?” Instead, saying “Ok, now try restarting your computer,” would likely make more sense to them.
Another way to ensure that your customers know you’re on their side is to personalize the conversations you have with them. They don’t want to feel as though they’re speaking to a robot; they want the human on the other end of the phone or chat box to care about their individual experience. Approximately 41% of customers have reported switching companies because of poor personalization.
In practice, this could look like speaking to customers over the phone and addressing them by their name. If they feel like they have a connection with you where you recognize them as a named human being, they’ll likely leave support experiences feeling like they’ve been helped by someone who truly cares about their success.
You can get the information you need to personalize customer interactions by using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, like HubSpot Service Hub. This allows you to catalog relevant customer contact information, like email addresses, and look them up when they contact a support rep.
Service Hub also keeps a record of customers’ previous interactions with your business, so you can open a customer contact profile to see their interaction history with your company and their common issues, which is something that consumers value.
Let the customer know you’re on their side.
Advocacy language shows customers you’re on their side. You align yourself with their needs without debating who’s right and wrong. Instead, you can reiterate your commitment to resolving their issues.
Proving to the customer that you’re on their side means integrating all of the above best-practices during your conversations. Let’s go over what that looks like.
First, when you receive a call from a customer, begin by personalizing the conversation. If they’re a new customer, ask for their name and use it to refer to them throughout the rest of the interaction. If they’re recurring, use your CRM to find their information in your contacts record.
To understand the issue at hand, maintain a consistent tone, and use positive language. Maybe this looks like, “Hi Taylor, thanks for calling today. I understand that the problem you’re having is [XYZ], and you want me to help you [XYZ]?” You’ve maintained a consistent, helpful tone and used positive language that doesn’t place blame on them. Instead you’ve shown them that you’ve listened to what they have to say and are ready to provide resolutions.
When you give them your solutions, you can say something like, “Great, thank you for taking the time to explain. What I’m going to do today to solve [XYZ] for you, Taylor, is [XYZ].”
Again, you’re using their name to personalize the interaction, and you’re clearly stating what you’ll do to solve their issues. By using brief, clear statements, you’re not confusing them with drawn-out explanations, and you’re aligning yourself with them on finding a solution.
Integrating all of the above tips during your customer service conversations will help you expertly solve customer problems and satisfy them with your excellent service. Most importantly, advocating for your customers in this way encourages the desired outcome of using customer advocacy language in the first place: customer loyalty and retention.
Why Your Service Reps Should Use Advocacy Language
The purpose of using advocacy language is to drive customers to become customer advocates. In short, customer advocates are the consumers that are so satisfied with your business’ product or service that they become spokespeople, or marketing agents, for your business. These loyal customers are also sometimes called brand evangelists.
Let's take a look at some statistics that prove the benefits of using advocacy language in your support strategies:
- 73% of consumers say that customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions. This emphasizes the importance of continuously raising the bar and implementing best-practices for service reps to follow.
- 94% of customers who rate a company as having very good customer service are more likely to make repeat purchases from that business, reiterating the importance of providing consistent satisfactory experiences to encourage customer retention.
- After a positive experience, approximately 95% of customers would recommend a business to others. Like the above statistic, satisfying customers enough to continue purchasing other products from your business also entices them to become marketers for your company that try to convert other consumers.
- 79% of consumers say that user-generated content (UGC), like reviews, is a significant factor influencing their purchasing decisions. When your loyal customer advocates recommend you to others, these recommendations are more valuable than the advertisements you make yourself, which are largely viewed as ineffective influences.
When you go above and beyond for your customers, it’s clear that it is a significant driver of business revenue and customer retention. You show them that you care about them, and they know that continuing to use your service comes with excellent customer support. They’ll share their positive experiences with their friends and family, which in turn brings more customers and grows your reach.
Advocate for Your Customers and They'll Advocate for You
Customers want to feel cared for by a business — especially when they encounter issues with your product or service. They don’t want switch providers, but they will if they don’t get the support they need.
If you take the time to listen to your customers’ issues, and use advocacy language when providing solutions, your customers will feel like you genuinely care about their success. In response, you’ll likely generate a following of loyal customer advocates who become repeat buyers and free marketing agents for your business.
Originally published Dec 15, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021