Friendly, but formal.

Companies frequently debate over, wonder about, and consider what tone they should present in their written communication to customers (especially in the support department). Even though it sounds relatively unimportant, it is actually a good thing to keep in mind an excellent thing to think about.

All my writing teachers in school would tell me that everyone leads to tone and I’d say the same thing is true about support responses. And the default answer for tone is that “it depends on the customer.” The more practical answer is that the tone should be friendly, but should also still be formal.

The responses sent or given should be appropriate for the tone the customer sets right off the bat. If the customer writes in saying, “Hey guys, my account isn’t working,” it’s safe to say you can be relatively informal and personable. However, if the customer writes in saying, “Dear Sir / Madam, please be advised that our account is not working,” you’ll probably want to use a more formal tone.

Beyond just the customer, the issue matters, too. General “how do you do this?” questions should be answered in a different way than issues along the lines of “My account has not been working in the last two weeks.” You don’t want to laugh off a serious problem and you don’t want to make a simple request or question sound like a big deal. Choosing the right tone requires some experience and to a larger extent, just paying attention. Look for cues in the customer’s wording (for email/phone) and tone of voice (for phone).

People don’t want to work with robots and you should encourage representatives to engage with customers and use their personality, but you also want to talk about the line between friendly and overly friendly. They are still customers and your business is still a business serving customers. Buddy buddy relationships and interactions should be left to buddies – not to customer service representatives helping strangers.

As a company, you want your representatives to be friendly, polite, and personable. What they say and how they say it should reflect that goal and that idea.