491621 It is not what you say, it is how you say it
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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

It is not what you say, it is how you say it

"Have a nice day." How many times have you heard someone say something like this and felt they didn't really mean it. Simple words such as these should be part of every customer experience program. However, if they are said in the wrong way, they can be counter-productive and annoy the customer.


Recent research from Yale University explored how people react to the way that words are expressed. Michael Kraus, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Yale School Of Management reports that the very briefest interactions of speech leads to instant perceptions. The voice brings with it so many clues. It positions the speaker in terms of their social background and, perhaps not surprisingly, this can bring prejudices with it . A flat voice sounds disinterested. Upspeak (where the intonation of the voice rises at the end of any or all utterances) makes some people cringe. Slipping in dog words such as "like you know" or "whatever" may cause the listener to judge the speaker as poorly educated.


At a recent annual conference of The Professional Speechwriters Association, Noah Zandan, Head of Quantified Communications reported on a study which measured the impact of how we communicate. The research suggests that a major impact is achieved in just 15 seconds and, most disturbingly, the content of what we say accounts for only 11%. Passion, expertise, voice and presence are twice as important. It is worth dwelling on this last sentence for a moment. Accents do position us but when it comes to delivering customer experience, genuine enthusiasm and presence are much more important.


Many customer service staff work at the end of a phone and so there is no posture, no body language or eye contact to reinforce the words. The words and the way that they are spoken are everything.


Remember this; what you say must follow what you know. One of our most important gifts is the power of listening. This is not just hearing what someone says but tuning in to what they are telling you. Paying attention to your customer so that you can respond intelligently will earn you accolades. Good listening results in good responding and contributes hugely to the quality of great customer experience.

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