The Art of Talking Happy: 10 Ways to a Better Customer Support Vocabulary


If you’ve ever worked in telemarketing or cold calling, you might have had your supervisor come by and remind you put on a smile when you’re on the phone with customers. Obnoxious? Yes. Weird? Kind of. But not without its merits. “Smile while you dial” is the ultimate customer service best practice, and it’s more important today than ever before.

Why? Because, believe it or not, customers can hear you smile. As humans, we pick up on vibes and adjust our own behavioir to other people’s emotional cues. This you may already know, after all just think of the calls you’ve had where you could sense whether the other party was angry or elated. But what if I told you that your tone of voice when you’re talking to your customers directly influences your company’s bottom line? Believe it or not, it does.

Upbeat and positive attitude directly

Back in 2002, Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesar’s Entertainment) the company behind some of the world’s biggest and most popular casinos, began the transition to a new corporate culture. During this period, Harrah’s management started pushing the idea that tipped casino employees would earn higher tips if they exceeded customer expectations with an upbeat and positive attitude. The employees pushed back. Many of the long-time table games dealers insisted that they were tipped for doing their job (i.e. dealing the game) and that their tips were simply a result of each customer’s generosity. So Harrah’s management launched a small experiment to find out who was right: the Upbeat & Positive Attitude (UPA) experiment. The results were clear for all to see.

The question they put was this: “Could an employee with an upbeat and positive attitude change the outcome of an otherwise standard interaction?” First, they found that compared to general niceties (such as giving a warm welcome, making eye contact, smiling), UPA had the biggest impact on customer satisfaction ratings:

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“The use of enthusiastic, energetic, uses tone (volume and inflection) AND gestures to convey positive energy.”

In a split test, they found that employees who demonstrated the upbeat and positive attitude earned on average 51% more in tips, compared to those who demonstrated only mediocre behavior. In other words, customers responded really well – and with their wallets – to employees that made them feel good.

Remove the Distance Between Your Team and Your Customers

The most upbeat and positive employees received dramatically higher customer satisfaction ratings (56%) than their mediocre counterparts (12%), even when wait times were exactly the same, so why was this? The facts, demonstrated by customer tips, showed that being happy and upbeat when you work with customers is directly linked to positive association and higher customer satisfaction with both the individual and the company. Put simply, customers like to be in the company of people who make them feel happy and positive, whether that’s their partner, their date for the night, or the people who are serving them at a casino or other place of work.

What does it mean to talk happy?

In simple terms talking happy means conveying a positive tone and energy to make your customers feel good when they talk to you. At Buffer, they like to call it “the warm fuzzies.” Austin Powers likes to call it “feeling groovy.” However you want to look at it, when you’re a support rep or customer service agent, your words set the tone for the way you interact with customers and for every interaction after that. If you can find and replace some of those pedantic, critical, passive-aggressive or dismissive with better word choice, a more positive energy, wouldn’t you do it? That’s what this handy guide is for, to “find and replace” your vocabulary with a better one.

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The challenge of talking happy

We’ve seen how customers love support reps who talk happy; in the casino it brought the dealers more than 50% extra tips, and it can have a similar effect for the bottom line of companies in any sector. Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we all talked happy all the time? Let’s face it, life’s not always a bunch of roses, and we all sometimes enter the workplace in a less than joyous mood. It’s important that customer service agents learn to leave their everyday problems at home, and embrace positivity when at work. Positivity sessions and role plays can really help with this; think of an upbeat and positive attitude as being like a muscle, the more you exercise it the bigger the UPA gets.

Why talking happy and great customer service is more important than ever before

I said at the start of this tutorial that talking happy is more important than ever before, but why should that be? There are two reasons, first the business world is more competitive than ever before. The great expansion of internet shopping means that if customers don’t like the attitude you’re giving out they can easily move elsewhere. Guess what, that’s just what they’ll do.

Second, social media has taken the importance of great customer service to a whole new level. We’ve all seen angry tweets and Facebook posts that go viral, so it’s essential that you deal with every single customer communication promptly, effectively, and with a smile in your voice. In that way, even if a customer has encountered an initial problem they’ll go away knowing they’ve spoken to a company that cares. That can turn into a good news story, rather than a social media disaster.

Use power words

There are two secret ingredients to creating a great customer experience over the telephone: having a positive attitude and smiling when you talk and the use of power words. When I say power words I simply mean words and phrases that put the customer at the heart of the conversation. Use their name, create a rapport, and don’t be afraid to say that you understand their frustration. Let them know that you care and you will help them, and never allow them to think that you’re reading robotically from a script.

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Smiling while you talk to customers will transform their customer experience, which in turn will have a huge impact on the reputation and bottom line of your business. Of course, it’s also important to smile while you type and email, as a joined up and positive communication solution is the best marketing tool a business can have.

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