By Sam Richardson, CX Consultant at Twilio
The way we use language continues to change. With each year that passes, new words are added to the English dictionary, slang terminology becomes more widely accepted, and text abbreviations take on new meanings.
It can be hard for all of us to keep up, but it can be even more challenging for brands to adapt their styles according to individual preferences. Not only do they need to understand how the use of language is changing, but they need to know who is receptive to more modern use of vocabulary, as well as where it is appropriate to engage with customers in these ways.
Indeed, brands communicate with their customers across a multitude of channels – including marketing emails, chatbots, call centres, emails, or live chat exchanges – and they need to know how their customers want to engage in each environment. By building a real-time view of their customers across all touchpoints, however, brands will be able to stay agile and responsive to the evolution of language and changing communications preferences. This will ultimately help to power more personalised and impactful experiences.
To help brands understand some of the current trends they should be keeping an eye on, Twilio, surveyed 2,000 UK consumers* to find out more about their consumer language and communications preferences for the year ahead…
Consumers opt for colloquial communication
In general, customers appear to be open minded to using informal language when engaging with brands. In fact, over half (54%) are open to brands using emojis, and 48% are open to brands using slang.
The research also found that using complicated language and overly formal language are considered pet peeves by 66% and 47% of consumers respectively, highlighting how brands can consider using more personable, straightforward language to engage their customers – when the time is right.
But it’s a balancing act, with almost two thirds of consumers (61%) often drawing the line at text talk and abbreviations, deeming these to be bugbears when engaging with brands. While brands should take note of this trajectory towards colloquialism, they must therefore be mindful not to overstep the mark with inappropriate informality. This is where effective use of data comes in, helping brands to understand preferences across channels and strike the right balance.
People want brands to mirror their language and communication style
Consumers of today have high benchmarks when corresponding with brands; half (50%) expect them to mirror their own communication style with similar length messages, formality, and use of abbreviations and emojis, for example.
The younger generations demand this even more so, with 67% of 16–24 year-olds and 65% of 25-34 year-olds expecting brands to deliver on this, highlighting the growing need for brands to adapt to accommodate digital natives.
Consistency also proves key, with over three quarters of consumers (77%) expecting brands to maintain the same style across different communications channels – such as WhatsApp, emails, and live chat. To address this, brands need to ensure customer data insights don’t sit in a silo, and that they can be leveraged across customer engagement channels. AI tools can then play their part in assisting contact centre agents to accurately generate ‘mirrored’ responses.
Shorter, snappier exchanges have become the default way to communicate
Twilio’s research shows that the efficiency pillar (from the ‘E3 formula’ of efficiency, expertise and emotion) is reigning supreme in brand-customer engagements. Receiving several short, easily digestible messages was ranked consumers’ preference when engaging with brands in customer service scenarios (51%).
Furthermore, almost nine out of ten consumers (85%) expect timely and fast responses from brands, while small talk and delayed responses were considered to be irritating by over 70% of Brits. With today’s customers keen to get to the point, and reach a solution in a timely manner, brands should prioritise this element of communication – but not at the expense of expertise and emotion.
Multilingual consumers are increasingly switching between different languages, and expect brands to do the same
With global audience bases, customers have varying needs, and brands must adapt. Almost half of consumers (49%) expect to be able to share their preference on chosen language and over a third (34%) expect brands to be able to seamlessly switch between languages.
Beyond preferred language, almost three quarters of consumers (72%) expect brands to be able to accommodate different disabilities, ages, regions, and cultures in their communications, with over a quarter of consumers (28%) anticipating that AI will assist with this level of personalisation. Using AI models to not only learn customers’ preferences but deliver such personalisation will become a non-negotiable for brands.
Accurate writing remains important
With AI-generated content, there are now no excuses for inaccuracy from brands. Thanks to this emerging technology, over half of consumers (54%) have come to expect brands to deliver well-written communications.
And the payoff is there for brands, with consumers stating that well written communications make brands look professional (69%), competent (58%), and that it builds trust (51%). Poor grammar, however, such as the incorrect use of apostrophes or the incorrect application of ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ and/or ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, was rated a pet peeve by 50% and 65% of consumers respectively. Brands should therefore consider implementing AI tools that not only enable personalised interactions, but that make sure they are getting the basics right with well written communications.
These language trends not only provide a really valuable insight into consumers’ language preferences, but also brands’ communication habits that may be inadvertently turning off customers. But while these macro trends help us to understand the overarching direction of travel among consumers, they do not universally capture each and every customer’s communications preferences.
Brands need to start to better understand each and every customer’s preferences and personalise their communication styles accordingly. Building detailed profiles of their customers is a good place to start to make sure insights into their preferences aren’t stuck in a silo. They need to be readily available for AI tools and contact agents to leverage, and accessible across all customer engagement channels for consistency. Although currently an unfeasible manual task, AI can make granular personalisation at scale a reality, and in turn help brands meet the expectations of today’s consumers.
Engagement styles in customer service and marketing can make or break relationships with customers – especially in scenarios where customers may be dissatisfied or reaching out with a complaint. So, understanding customers’ language preferences presents a worthwhile return on investment for brands looking to ensure they can meet consumers’ increasingly high expectations.
* Between 18th and 20th December 2023, Twilio commissioned a survey of 2,000 UK consumers (aged 18+). The research was carried out by Censuswide.