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This Is Why Your Tone in English Matters in Customer Success


Imagine a customer reaching out to your company's support team, frustrated after a recent purchase. They express their disappointment in the product and are seeking a resolution. How you as a support representative respond can make all the difference in their perception of your company. It is not just about what you say, but how you say it. In this episode, we explore this topic further and give you some tips on how to use the right tone working in customer success.

What is the tone of voice and why is it so important?

The word "tone" is often used to describe your voice, it refers to its pitch, quality, and strength and it is useful to perceive the attitude of the speaker. By listening to the voice, you can tell if the person is angry, happy, or sad. It's not about the words per se, it's how you say them. The tone is also conveyed through word choice and sentence length.

The tone of voice may be the single most important factor in support performance, but the main challenge is that, besides simple truisms like “be friendly” or “be nice,” it’s hard to standardize tone across a support team.

What are some helpful phrases for customer support?

  • “I completely understand how you feel; I would feel the same way if that happened to me so, let me see what I can do to resolve the problem for you.”
  • “I’m so sorry to hear what has happened, you were absolutely right to bring this to my attention. Let me see what I can do to help.”
  • “I apologize on behalf of our company for any misunderstanding, let me see what I can do to solve the problem.”

What phrases should you avoid in customer support?

Avoid negative words and phrases like "Sorry for ANY inconvenience” or “I’m sorry IF you FEEL THAT WAY,” and try to turn negative statements into positive sentences, like the examples below:

  • What is wrong? → How can I help?
  • We won’t be able to get back to you until December 1. → We’ll get back to you by December 1.
  • Don't send me an invite less than 24 hours in advance. → Please send me an invite at least 24 hours in advance.
  • If you don’t sign up before September, it will be too late for you to attend the workshop. → To attend the workshop, sign up before September!
  • Important decisions cannot be approved by anyone except the CEO. → The CEO needs to approve all important decisions.
  • Without your approval, we are stuck in this phase and cannot move on. → Please send us your approval so that we are able to move on.


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Talaera Talks - Transcript Episode 7


Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co hosting the show with Simon. In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!

Hi, everyone. We're back with a new Talaera episode. And I'm very, very excited to share it with you. And I'm here today with Simon. Hi, Simon.

How's it going?

Great. How are you?

I'm doing well. I'm doing well. I've actually moved into a different apartment here in Copenhagen now. So I am. Yeah, coming to you from Copenhagen. And it's very cold here. How's it down in Spain?

It's a little rainy, rainy earlier than usual. But it's not too bad. Have you unpacked all your boxes?

still in the process? process? It's a team effort. Yeah. But so how's it going? And what are we getting into today?

So the topic we have today is around customer success, and more specifically, how your tone and register. So how formal and informal you are, will affect the Customer Success experience. And the first question I have is who is this for? Is it only for Customer Success reps?

No. And that's and that's actually something that we talked about before was now that organizations are putting show much more focus on customer success. This isn't just an episode for technical support specialists or Yeah, customer service reps, or sales specialists. This is Yeah, for anyone in your organization where you're putting the focus on customer success. And so when when we're aiming this, it can go for everyone, right? And with that, obviously, we're English instructors, but we do have a little bit of experience in customer service, at least from my side, I worked at enterprise rent a car for a couple of years outside when I got out of college. And that's, you know, such a big part of that whole experience was customer service and everything. And, yeah, so I have a lot of experiences, some good, but you know, a lot also really bad around customer service. And I think, you know, sometimes it's good to know what to do, but also what not to do. Right?

We will talk about that.

Yeah, definitely, definitely. So let's, I guess get into it then. Right?

Yeah, let's do that.

So yeah, so that's kind of my experience. But yeah, let's get into a little bit with the tone and, and how that relates into customer service.

Yeah, so what is stone, this is when we use the word tone, we often refer to the voice. And that means the pitch, it's high pitch, or low pitch, or the quality of the voice, strength, the power. And it really shows the attitude of the speaker. So we will talk later about how it can help you in customer success. You can tell I mean, that's this is what happens, right? When you listen to a person just by the voice, not the words, you can tell it, they're angry, happy, sad. But it's not always about the words, sorry, it's not always about the voice. It's also about the words you choose, and how long your sentences and so on.

Yeah, this, you know, just to really quickly go back to the enterprise store, you know, I have this manager who he would always get angry at our customer service rep. Because he would hear her over the phone, and he would hear from his office, the way she spoke and her tone. And he would always say that exact word, he would always say, tone. After she would get off the phone, like check your tone, you know, the way that you're talking? And how that, you know, how do you really get across a certain message with that, and how that makes the other person feel.

And how did that sound? That bad tone?

Yeah, I mean, it just I can give you an example. It was more kind of instead of Okay, so, you know, what seems to be the problem or what can we do right with this kind of upward inflection is what we call it where it's kind of going up, right? hers was more like, Okay, so what can we do? Right? And so that difference, it just it's hard to describe right? But you can hear it and you can feel it almost right.

Yeah. And so I mean, this is a question that it might sound a bit obvious, but why is then tone so important?

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Yeah, so tone, it may be one of the biggest factors with this. And, you know, instead of this, oh, just be friendly and be nice. You know, as I said, it's kind of harder to really describe it, but you get the feeling when a person is speaking to you in a certain tone, right? And with tone, there's so many things that go into it in terms of, Okay. Does this person actually care what my issue is? I mean, that's such a massive one, it just people understanding, okay, I care. And I understand. And let's find this right. With tone, we can show how we can take responsibility for the situation, how we can make it better, right. So you know, instead of Oh, okay, so has this happened before? Instead of this? What we can do? Oh, Has this happened before? Right. So it's just that difference? And a little bit of effort goes a long way with this, you know, you know, Oh, okay. I understand that, and instead of that, Okay, I understand. Right. So it's these two differ in terms of our inflection, you know, the using, I'm sorry, versus I apologize, right. Just, yeah. Okay. I apologize. That's, I mean, how does that sound to you? You know,

it's, it's very interesting. So what you were saying before with the examples is that if you sound more enthusiastic and empathetic, then the other person will receive your message much better. Is that what you were saying?

Yes, but I think it's, of course, you don't want to if someone's telling you something that was really tough for them, or something like that, you wouldn't say, Oh, I'm so sorry about that, you know, it's about right, choosing when to what type of tone that's really gonna convey the message that you want them to feel if you want them to feel understood. We give them a more understanding tone, if you want them to feel like, Hey, I hear this, you know, we can provide more reassurance and make a commitment. Right. So instead of, yeah, you know, you're absolutely right to bring this to my attention. So you know, instead of that, okay, you're absolutely right to bring this to my attention. Right. So the difference with that is the former was much more kind of, yeah, relaxed and not really invested. And now we're getting a bit more kind of empathetic, like you said, to use that word.

So we will do a bit of do's and don'ts in a few minutes. But this is an important one, do not use a flat tone, emphasize the words that are important. And, and convey that that feeling that you want to convey with the I'm sorry, and I apologize, I sometimes feel that I apologize is when you assume that it was your fault. Well, I'm sorry, could be, for example, I had I don't know, I was stuck in a traffic jam. And I couldn't attend my meeting with the CEO. And he's like, oh, I'm sorry.

Yeah, you know, at least for me, and in my experience, what I found was using, I'm sorry, over I apologize is just, at least to me, I don't know about it for you, but it comes across as more sincere. You know, I honestly, sometimes I would be so emotionally drained from just always dealing with all these customers and all the issues that I would just start using, I apologize because, for me, it almost like it took less out of me, you know, to deal with these customers. And saying I apologize, like, for me felt like I was distancing myself from actually, you know, dealing with, with their emotions. And so, I learned that, okay, if I actually want to make this right, saying I'm sorry, tends to go a bit further, at least in my experience,

that's interesting. Okay, so this means that we do take that responsibility, we show them that we understand the situation and that we understand them and that we are there for them. But Tony also helps us show them that okay, we understand, but we're also trying to find a solution. [Right, right.] How can we do that?

Yeah, so I kind of touched on it a bit before but this, we talked about providing reassurance and making a commitment. So we go from the more empathetic sincere feeling of Okay, I am I'm with you in this issue, right? I'm we're together in this I understand, right? going a bit softer, but, and then we're moving from that because we want to get to the solution, we're moving from that to - Okay, let's go forward. So here, right, there's a difference in tone, in terms of the softer kind of, I'm with you here on an emotional level. And now we're going towards, okay, a bit more upbeat, let's, let's move to a solution, right? This is where we can use some, like, I statements, like, you know, I'm going to try everything I can to get this fixed by the end of the day. Right? So that's, that's where we're moving this more upbeat. I mean, can you see a difference between those two?

Yeah, absolutely. So when we use AI, it's when you take this responsibility, I will make sure that we find a solution as well. And you sound energetic and positive and forward-leaning.

Right. And, and with this finding solution, you know, I think it's not just about the eye, but also about the Wi-Fi. Because a lot of times you need that other party to cooperate to find a solution. Sometimes you can, you know, this is a difficult situation, but one solution that we could try going forward. So that brings the other person into, to give them a little bit of agency or give them a little bit of, Hey, this is on YouTube to find a solution. But they want to, they want to be on your team and finding a solution. Right. So we can use we in terms of with this right? So what we can do is what we can do together is to do this,

Would you say using WE, as you said, in this situation, will help the other person collaborate more, instead of saying YOU should do this?

Yeah, I think so. But I think it's important that this has to happen after we've made that emotional connection at the beginning. You know, that is the important part at the beginning is that person, I think, typically is not going to want to jump in together in a collaboration with you and solve things together. Unless they're they feel that you understand the issue and that you're, you're in it with them, right? Then it becomes a week, it can become a way until you know, we're in this boat together. I don't know if you have any experience with positive customer service where, where they've done that well by you create a connection, and then we do we together? Have you ever experienced anything like that?

So I'm actually having eye surgery on Monday. And it's a very good example of them trying to understand my situation really asking me how I felt they used all the tapes, actually, that I've or that we've described here together, they took responsibility, they explained all the steps. And when they had to tell me what I had to do for my end, they did us this, we should do this. And this is the recommendation. So that was a very, very positive customer experience for me. So as I said, First, they establish that emotional connection, they can mean down, I felt confident about the whole process. And then they told me what I had to do to collaborate.

They must be really good at that. Because someone coming and going into my eye, it's like, that is really, really terrifying to me. So they must have good training with calming people down. And yeah, you know, creating that connection,

they did a pretty good job. And that's good. What are some examples that were that we can give? Where we use all the tips that we can so far?

Yes. So we've talked about, you know, the importance of tone, what it is, how do we convey it? We've talked about how we take the responsibility, we're in there together and the emotional connection, and then we move from that to the tone of more upbeat finding a solution together. So for I could give you an example, right? So, you know, you come to me you're upset with something, you know, oh, like you're giving me such horrible service with you know, you're not, I I know I want to go in this day to get my I done. But you're telling me I have to switch to this day. So now it's like it's messing up my whole schedule, and I'm okay. I completely understand how you feel. I would feel the same way. Right. This is I know this is messing up your schedule. You have work to do. And if this happened to me, I totally understand. So that's this first part right of lower. We're a bit softer. We're in this together and I'm showing that I understand. So let's see what we can do to fix this. Let's see what we can do to move forward. Let me see if I can look into scheduling. Let's see if we can find a time that works for you that we can get this done. So what I did there, right, we talked about before moving from this emotional, and we're we're understanding how you feel, to changing that and saying, Okay, what can we do together and move forward? So did that kind of show the difference in the contrast?

Yeah. Thanks so much for those.

Yeah. Do you? Do you have an example?

So I do have a lot of examples of what not to do. So perhaps we can go over them? Try to improve them?

Yeah, yeah. So what not to do, and I think that's just important. Knowing what to do, so yeah, what's something that we shouldn't do?

So one thing we shouldn't do is use negative language. Okay. So instead of saying what's wrong, we can say things like, how can I help? Negative language includes wrong? We want? Not bad. No one without it. We cannot move on. So positive language is more around how can I help? How can we do this, please? Thank you.

Okay. So it's more kind of like geared towards whether we know that we I mean, we're not going to lie that there's not an issue, but we're looking at it in a positive way in terms of how can we fix this? Right?

Yes. So instead of there's a problem, we look at? How can we solve it? Hmm. Okay. And I have some sentences that use negative language, and perhaps you can help me turn them into positive language. Yeah, let's give it a try. Like we said, What's wrong? How can I help? The other one I have is we won't be able to get back to you until December the first.

Okay. And then instead of using that, we won't be able to we'll say, Okay, we'll be getting back to you by December 1.

Yeah, exactly. That or don't send us an invite less than 24 hours in advance.

Yeah, okay. That's like, yeah, pretty negative. Change that maybe to something like, okay, please send me an invite at least 24 hours in advance. That's right. Oh, good. I like that. Changing that to a negative.

Yeah. And one more, for example, if you don't sign up before September, it will be too late for you to attend the workshop. Right. Okay.

So then it's, yeah, there's this negative wall that you're reaching, and then we could change that to into the positive which be, so to attend the workshop? Sign up before September? Right. Nice. Yes. So this is kind of like, we bow we know, there's a negative in there, but we can change it into the positive. I like that. That's, that's

right. What else are the don'ts and how can we fix them?

Yeah, so I think, you know, this is like the typical detached customer service language, but I think it applies to a lot of things, you know? Like, I mean, if if I said to you, oh, you know, I'm sorry, if there's any inconvenience. It's like, I'm having eye surgery. I can't have an inconvenience, you know, or, like, my Japanese tourists that I rented a car to that was being, you know, pulled over by an American state trooper and they don't speak English that well, that's not an inconvenience. A borderline traumatic situation, right. So it's not an inconvenience, also saying, I'm sorry, if you feel that way, right. So that's kind of, I mean, I don't know what it sounds like to you. But to me, it's like, oh, I'm sorry. If you feel that way. It's like, your, the way that you feel, and that way is like it's not actually it's just something subjective. It's just something the way you feel.

And they also sound like he was a copy-paste from a lame manual.

Yeah, exactly. Like line one. I'm sorry if you feel that way.

So how should we do it instead?

Yeah, so Okay, so for the first one, right, in terms of inconvenience, just don't use inconvenience, right. Okay. I'm sorry that I understand that this disrupted your day, I understand that this caused an issue. Okay. And then you move forward. I'm sorry. If you feel that way, that one we need to change to. Okay. I understand how you're feeling because I would feel the same way or You know, it seems like it feels like you are upset with this or something like that, right? So we're showing that we are together with this and that their feelings actually matter and that they're objective, we can both understand them. Okay, so we have our examples, we have our do's and don'ts. So what have we really gone over today, in our, in our session today?

So I guess the first thing to remember is that tone is really, really, really important. And it's one of those that we might think that the other person is not noticing, but they always pick up so it's important to control it, sometimes going a little bit slower. Or, as you said, the pitch going up or going down. Might have a difference. Being enthusiastic. Sorry.

Yeah. When we talked about emotion and establishing the connection, softer, more. Okay, understandable. When we talked about finding a solution. Okay, more upbeat more, let's get this done, right.

Yes, absolutely. And also using tone to convey what we need to convey. So what do you say if we want to take responsibility? What should we do?
Right, right. Yeah. So this, this is, like I said, using that tone to Okay, how do we shift it from the lighter, more understanding to Okay, let's, let's get this done. And I think we gave a lot of good examples today, which was one thing we want to focus on is a lot of these examples. And then we ended right with our do's and don'ts. Not using inconvenience. You know, I'm sorry, if you feel that way. Yeah, I'm gonna just, I think, just for fun, I'm going to use this inconvenience one today with my girlfriend and see how that goes... I'm not gonna take that chance.

I don't know how risky you're feeling... How much of a risk-taker you are.

Not today, not today. But yeah, so so we gave a lot of good examples today. And then not using the negative language, right? So not, oh, what's wrong? More? How can I help? Right? So shifting that into the positive? So yeah, a lot of good examples today. And I think, you know, if you're listening to this, and you're a CSR rep, or even just in your organization, where you have to deal with people from different functions. Take a lot of this, I think into account, you can listen to a few times and take our examples and really apply those. But I think that's it for today. Paula, how do you feel about everything?

That's it for today? I'm sure people have a lot of questions, and I would love to hear them. So send us your question. We want to do Version Two for customer service. And we would love to hear all the things you would like us to cover.

Yeah, definitely. I mean, there's so much to cover with this. So of course, we don't want to cram it all in. So we'll be coming out with another one on customer service soon. But that is it for today. Again, remember to subscribe. This helps us out a ton with our just knowing how many are listening and everything. And yeah, I guess that is it for today. We are looking forward to some more episodes coming up. And as always keep learning.


And that's all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it, and remember to subscribe to Talaera Talks. We'll be back soon with more! And visit our website at for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!

Business English Podcast

Note: this episode was originally published in February 2021.