- Voice, tone, and terms
- Greetings, Slang, and Closings
- Status Site Communication
- Rules/things to keep in mind
Voice, tone, and terms
Our voice is friendly, clear, direct, and most importantly, human. Read your replies a few times in your head or aloud before sending. Would you use those same words in a conversation with a friend? If not, find new words.
Adjust your tone based on the tone of the customer’s email. If they’re clearly angry, don’t be a chipper do-gooder, take it down a notch. If they’re excited about something, bring the energy. Our voice should be consistent, but our tone should vary to be appropriate for the situation.
Help Scout App Word Usage
- Emails from customers are called conversations, not tickets.
- Single replies within a conversation are called threads.
- People who ask for help are always called customers, not end-users.
- Anyone with a Help Scout account is called a User, not an agent.
- Always capitalize feature names. For example, Docs, Beacon, and Workflows.
OK: “You can use Workflows to auto-assign conversations based on various conditions.”
OK: “Which workflow are you having trouble with?”
General Word Usage
Inspiration taken from MailChimp
- crazy, insane, any synonyms
- killing it, crushing it
- anything you can look up here http://unsuck-it.com
Be careful with:
- login vs. log in
- drop-down vs. dropdown
- email (not e-mail)
- Beacon vs. Beacons
- Auto BCC vs. Auto Reply
Remember to write people’s names correctly. Double-check this. Sérgio is Sérgio, not Sergio, etc. Most accented characters are easy to type on a Mac: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201586. If you are not sure how to type a name or you’re not sure if the “name” in Help Scout is truly a person’s name, go with something generic to avoid confusion/offense.
Don’t shorten someone’s name unless they have already shortened it in their email or signature. Christopher is Christopher, not Chris. Katie is Katie, not Kate, etc.
Pronouns: If you are not sure of the gender of the customer or another user they refer to, “they” is acceptable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they. Him/her or just guessing are both not great options, and it is very frustrating to be misgendered all the time.
Gendered Terms: Avoid gendered terms like “you guys,” “our tech guy,” etc.
Greetings, Slang, and Closings
“Hey” and other casual greetings are great for customers we know or share our culture. For customers we don’t know well or whose culture we’re not familiar with, try to keep greetings more standard or match how they’ve addressed you.
- Greetings, John!
- Hello Amy,
- Hi James,
- Hey Ben,
Mailbox signatures are added automatically with every reply. Don’t sign your replies unless it’s appropriate for the type of message you’re sending.
Dates & Timezones
When you’re writing a date, it’s best to type out: “November 18” or “18 November.” Using the mm/dd format can be confusing for customers who use dd/mm in their countries, especially when we’re talking about the first 12 days of a month. Not that anyone couldn’t probably figure out what you meant, but this makes things clearer and simpler.
Less of a style note, but something else to watch out for. The US is currently on standard time: PST/MST/CST/EST. When we spring forward, we’ll be back on daylight savings time: PDT/MDT/CDT/EDT. It’s important to get this right in case someone is using a website to convert timezones. They’ll end up an hour off if you say the wrong thing. If you know what timezone a customer is in, it’s also nice to do the conversion on your end so that they don’t have to. If you’re not sure though, just go with your own or default to Eastern Time and they can convert from there.
Status Site Communication
Rules/things to keep in mind
- Metaphors and similes can be helpful in explaining technical concepts. If they themselves become complex, they’re not helpful any longer, and should be scrapped.
- Short words > long words
- Avoid jargon.
- If a customer writes to us in another language or does not speak English as a first language (or at all), write for translation by using active voice, simple words, skip the idioms.
- Don’t be stuffy, but don’t be chatty.
- Don’t be too didactic (minimize words like “ought to” and “should” when talking about the customer and their team)
- Be accessible. Plain language, lists help with this.
- Convey our values.
- Be candid.
- Be concise. More isn’t more, and folks will likely skim if your message is long.
- Short sentences, short paragraphs.
- Should go without saying, but all caps is never appropriate. Use bold or italics to emphasize.
- When referring to menus in the app, use bold and the > key. These should be capitalized. (ex. Manage > Users). Don’t use quotation marks.
- When referring to buttons or links, use italics. These should match the case of whatever you’re referring to. Don’t use quotation marks.
- If you don’t understand something well enough to explain it clearly, get help understanding it.
- The goals of a support reply are to answer the person’s question and to make them feel heard. You might be able to answer a question with a link to a Docs article, but couching that in a sentence or two is more human.
- Be specific. Would someone with very little knowledge about Help Scout understand what you’ve written?
- Contractions, exclamation points, and emoticons/emojis and even gifs are great ways to convey meaning with humanity. Remember to modulate your tone for the situation.
- Write telephone numbers as 123.456.7890 or 123–456–7890. If a country code is included, add it at the beginning with a +. e.g. +1 123–456–7890.
- Write file extensions in all caps - GIF, MP3, etc.
- Other than links to Docs articles added through the Docs search, paste links in directly instead of linking text.
- Only use quotation marks when quoting somebody. Don’t put random words or phrases in quotation marks.
- Clarity and humanity (your own and the recipient’s) above everything else