Thought Leadership

What is the Best Tone to Use for Customer Emails?

When a customer has a question or problem and reaches out to a company by email, both the customer and company desire a speedy, positive resolution.

But things can quickly go wrong if the customer service agent conveys the wrong tone in their email response. The tone reflects the email writer’s attitude or emotion toward the subject at hand and is established by the writer’s choice of words.

Does the agent come across as uncaring or arrogant? Too stiff and formal? Or is a serious problem dismissed with a flippant tone?

These are important questions for managers to consider when developing contact center communication strategies and when reviewing agent performance.

But it is also important to know what tone customers prefer when communicating with customer service representatives by email, chat, and other written channels. A recent survey conducted by the CRM research consultancy Software Advice sheds light on what consumers want.

Here’s what they found:

Customers Prefer a Casual Tone When Communicating With an Agent by Email

Of those who indicated a preference, 65 percent said they preferred a casual tone, while 35 percent said they preferred a formal tone.

CSI reported that the preference for a generally casual tone was consistent across all ages and genders: customers over 55 were not any more likely than their younger counterparts (18-24 years old) to prefer a formal tone in email communications.

Customers are more likely to pick up on tone when they are frustrated

customer service call center datamark bpo business processing outsourcing

A large majority of respondents (78 percent) said their satisfaction would be negatively impacted if an agent used an overly casual tone (such as using slang or emoticons) when denying a request via email.

Many Customers Feel Emoticons or Informal Figures of Speech May be Inappropriate


35 percent of respondents said emoticons– :’-( — were too informal to use in customer support emails. 26 percent said colloquial words such as “awesome” or “cool” also were too informal for use in customer support.

With this survey revealing that most people generally prefer a casual tone in emails from customer service agents, the CSI staff believes contact centers should consider “using pleasant, informal language when answering tickets or writing macros to address neutral situations.”

But in touchy situations, agents need to be very considerate of how the customer may be feeling and use a “more reserved, straightforward tone” to avoid appearing to be unenthusiastic or detached from a customer’s problem.

And of course, agents should think twice before typing a little smiley face in their email 

Celebrating 30 Years of Exceptional Service