Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

'Customer Service Voice': How Tone Impacts CX

Add bookmark

Brooke Lynch


When speaking to a customer service agent, most callers expect a pleasant and hopefully seamless interaction. Though the content of the conversation is typically most important, agents’ enthusiasm and engaging tone can work to promote meaningful discussions with customers. While this friendly tone may come easy to some agents, others have to work to find a voice that resonates with callers.

Although tone only represents a piece of communication, it does play a big role in facilitating successful interactions. Psychology professor Albert Mehrabian developed the 7-38-55 rule, which states that communication is broken down into three parts. Meaning is derived through spoken word at 7%, tone of voice at 38%, and body language at 55%. Agents, obviously, can actually only utilize spoken language and tone of voice when speaking to customers over the phone. Because of this, tone represents an opportunity for agents to successfully communicate and connect with customers. 

Interestingly, tone has become a trending topic on social media recently; customer service workers have flocked to social media app TikTok to show off their differing ‘customer service voices’. The trend, which currently has over 29.4M views, compares users’ normal everyday speaking voice to their noticeably contrasting employee voice. In one of the most popular clips, news anchor Jeanette Reyes begins introducing the concept in her normal tone and immediately shifts to pronounce breaking news in her work voice. The difference, which is obviously a bit more pronounced due to her public presence, is striking. The switch offers a clear distinction between her everyday personality and her more serious deadpan news delivery. Reyes noted in a comment that the voice she uses to deliver news is not required, however, she enunciates to create a more neutral accent that everyone can understand. 

Other users, including retail workers and contact center employees, highlight their upbeat tone and lively nature. Some note it as a product of their introverted nature, while others make light of the performative aspect of their career. In both circumstances, it offers a unique perspective that allows employers to gain a better understanding of their agents’ experiences. It also poses the question of whether this performative tone is a learned concept and a reflection of agent training, or a personal tool that proved successful with customers.

Additionally, what are the implications of this tone-switching on both employees and customers? Although it seems obvious that customers prefer speaking to happy, engaged agents; if the customer can sense the agent is ‘faking it,’ it can make the interaction feel disingenuous and forced. On the flip side, if agents feel they always need to act enthusiastic, even if they are struggling with personal matters, it may have a negative impact on their mental health. 

Therefore, it is important to consider whether agents feel pressured to act a certain way that doesn’t align with their true voice. Utilizing training sessions that emphasize not only cheeriness but authentic concern for customer inquiries allow agents to promote their own unique tone. Additionally, agents don’t necessarily need to perform in one exact way with each customer they speak to. If an agent feels the customer will resonate with a more attentive, engaged tone they should feel the freedom to adapt to the individual conversation. Tone should be fluid; focusing on making each customer interaction successful doesn’t require a blanket approach. Agents need to work to foster a more genuine, personalized approach. In catering to each customer individually, they can adapt their tone to develop a more successful, authentic experience.