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Is There Room for Textspeak in the Workplace?

Posted on November 26, 2008 by Josh

chat will brb thx 4 ur p8ience 

I recently read a blog post by Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim called "R U 2 Casual w Your Biz Talk?"  In the article, Frank is reacting to a WSJ article that discusses the casual use of the abbreviated shorthand, textspeak. I understand that, for Gen Y, textspeak is a clear and concise means of communication. They live in a world where they have unlimited (or hundreds of) texts, but maybe not unlimited calling minutes with friends. A world where it may be easier and cheaper to send an IM or a text than to pick up the phone to call, not only that, people can't hear what you are texting, so it's potentially more private than a voice conversation. Truly, there are some great reasons that Generation Y prefers texting to calling.  For the professional world, textspeak is not considered to be...well...professional; and when it comes to Live Chat for our customers, it definitely does not fly.

Customers want to know that the person that they are dealing with is both competent and capable, and the use of textspeak can diminish the customer’s confidence in the abilities of the representative. The use of textspeak in a service environment is unprofessional and can reflect negatively on your company and its staff. It diminishes the customer's expectations of what your company can do for them. Perhaps a company that sells "really cool" products might find it acceptable to use loose language with sales clientele. However, when dealing with a support issue, where a customer has a potential problem, they need clear language that isn't left to their interpretation. Textspeak can also come off to a customer as smug. Do not presume that a customer is ok with textspeak if they use it during a conversation. They are counting on you to be professional, especially if there is an issue that needs resolving.

If your business uses Live Chat as a communication option, be sure to review "speaking" guidelines with your staff. Additionally, review transcripts of chats to ensure that your service reps are representing your company in a pleasing way, and that they are not communicating with your customers in a way that is confusing or juvenile. According to LivePerson in face-to-face communications "55% of what we communicate is through our tone of voice, 38% of the message is by our appearance or body language, and only 7 % is by the words we use". Clearly, live chat is does not present a face-to-face option, so the words we use become much more important. LivePerson recommends paying attention to spelling and grammar as part of your basic “netiquette”. They have provided a rather useful list of basic rules to follow:

  • Use correct punctuation.
  • Use proper capitalization.
  • Use of exclamation marks are okay, e.g. "Sure! I'll be glad to help you."
  • Maintain a friendly, but professional tone.
  • Write complete sentences.
  • Use articles (a, an, the) and sentences with subjects and verbs.

Talk to your reps about professional language and what that means for your company. Let your people know, when they are hired, that your office is not a place for "OMG" and "brb" and "ROFL"; especially not with customers!


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