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Style & Voice

The WooCommerce Voice

In every bit of branded content we create and add to the world of the web we aim to channel the WooCommerce voice. Life is short and words are everywhere, best we choose thoughtfully. Every word our customers read is a tiny pixel in their overall perception of us, and we need to paint a coherent picture in order for them to form anything close to a relationship with us.

Words can elicit emotional responses, inspire action and make magic in people’s minds or they can be vanilla, boring and just get the job done. We aim to add value through excellent, lean writing and good grammar and to use words to build brand affection and create connections.

Powerful brands – like Coca-Cola and MailChimp – have a distinct feeling about them. We believe a brand’s voice goes a long way in making it personable – or not – and that strong brands work hard to inject something identifiable into all written communication. We try to do this too! When our customers read Woo words, we want them to be able to pick up that we’ve written them.

No content or piece of copy is exempt from the touches of our brand voice – the thread of our brand needs to weave through every word from product copy and tweets to checkout messages, promotion Ts&Cs, blog posts and the way we sign off emails to our customers. If you spot something that sounds glaringly unlike us, call us on it. We might just reward you.

Although consistency doesn’t mean sameness (our team is made of many individuals, after all) all WooCommerce words should strike a familiar chord. The language we use will differ, because we’re all different, but there ought to be a spirit and a flavour coming through that is overarching. Keeping this in mind helps us when crafting content.

Tone

When addressing a customer, as an individual, there is an opportunity to create a connection. A careless word, a sarcastic response, something written in jest that gets lost in translation and taken the wrong way, can start fires that are difficult to put out.

In tickets we use snippets for efficiency but, where possible, we try to add something that makes the interaction unique. Perhaps it is acknowledging someone has been waiting unusually long, perhaps it is wishing them well on the eve of a new year, perhaps it is the happiness engineer working on the ticket letting them know they’ve visited the city the customer lives in…. Anything that shows we are just humans goes a long way in building customer loyalty and retention.

Our tone is always respectful, always patient and we never take the gap to make anyone feel silly (i.e by pointing out that they are in the wrong). We promote honouring one another and talking to others as we like to be talked to.

The WooCommerce Website

We sell products to people far away and it is important that our copy is non-jargony, not boring, but simply gives people what they need to know to make a good decision. Our product page copy usually has one or two playful bits but on the most part just explains what is necessary. The checklist below is a rough guide of what ought to appear on every Woo product page:

  • Thoughtful product title
  • Short description + longer description
  • Video + image/s
  • Link to docs and demo site

If you come across a page you feel is lacking, or see a way we can make something clearer, please do give us a nudge.

In every blurb or description attempt to add a little something that pops and is an adventure to read. Copy shouldn’t be boring or plain, life is too short (as are people’s attention spans). This applies to pages like our Careers page, About us page, home page, customer stories etc. It also applies to messages in the dashboard.

Transactional emails

We have a number of emails that are sent automatically to customers as part of their transactions with us (i.e. confirming order, payment etc). We use them as opportunities firstly to relay important information but also to nudge people about who we are.

Even in our transactional emails we make sure the thread of our brand voice is woven in without becoming overkill (if people are to receive the mail regularly). It helps to pay attention to the emotion someone might be experiencing when they receive the mail (i.e. their account is suspended versus they just upgraded their account). Transactional emails should mirror whatever moment they are attached to.

We send various mails out to our customers each month with roundups of news, specific product releases, survey requests etc. These broadly have our tone, and should always be signed off by specific individuals. Our slogan for emails: honour people’s inboxes! We keep a beady eye on unsubscribes and are focused on sending mails people actually feel excited to open.

On the blog

Our blog has multiple authors. When articles are about products, tips, case studies etc they can be true to the voice of the author and for guest posts, there is no expectation to write in the Woo voice. We have more detailed guidelines for guest writers to ensure high quality content time and again, reach out to us if you’d like those.

Social Media

Successful social media communication is a lot about empathy. When someone reaches out to us, we need to work out as quickly as possible what it is they are feeling, and respond accordingly.

The tone on social media can usually be a little more casual and friendly than on product pages, but we’re never over-familiar or make assumptions, because one never knows who you are dealing with, and what is going on for them at the precise moment you collide online. Maybe they are having the worst day of their life. Maybe they are a bit of a psycho… If there are any clues or indicators as to what emotion the person we’re talking to is experiencing, we factor that into our response and mirror it back at them. If they are frustrated, we acknowledge this. If they are making jokes and having banter, we can take the gap to do this same.

Social media is primarily for connecting, inspiring, educating and entertaining and anything we share or say is framed to include one or more of those areas.

When a customer resorts to social media to vent about an issue it must ideally:

  • Be resolved immediately in one step (i.e. give them the answer in one go) OR
  • Be acknowledged and then taken offline as quickly as possible (trolls be trolling)

Social media are very public spaces and one needs to be aware that conversations that happen there are live and ‘watched’. This has varying implications. Firstly, everyone is a lot more sensitive and self-conscious. It is important never to reply in a way that makes people feel stupid. Even in cases where someone is asking something silly, we should try to turn it around to make them feel glad they got in touch. If we take longer than 6-8 hours to reply, it is like a tennis game where someone returns the serve after two weeks.

Once someone gets upset and on their soap-box it is usually quite hard to get them off it so we need to respond quickly, gently and respectfully. The right steps to follow are to acknowledge the frustration, not to be defensive, to let them know what action you are taking and then what will be done to make sure it won’t happen again. Sending long, technical answers publicly creates an expectation that we are willing to do this again and again, we want a community where members report problems directly, not on social.

In early 2014, we actually made the decision to retire our dedicated @WooSupport handle, read more about it.

Anyone who takes the time to compliment or reach out to us ought to get a reply and it is great if this reply can be personalised in some way (i.e. by clicking on their Twitter bio and including a detail about them or looking up what they ordered and saying we hope they enjoy it).

it is crucial to always play it safe on social. Keyboard confidence makes normal, meek people into aggressive werewolves. If ever we make a mistake, we relish the opportunity to show we’re not robots.

Customer support and emails

Our mission is to help people and this is the driving force behind the high quality of our email and ticket communication. When crafting replies to customers we strive to make them a pleasure to receive and read, which affects and informs everything from response time, layout, choice of words, spacing, line-breaks and spellcheck to making sure the email signature is awesome and double-checking things are attached when we say they will be.

Unlike social media, tickets are from individuals and are not written in our collective WooCommerce voice. They should be professional but with recognisable hints of our brand voice in choice of words etc. We use full sentences and always start a mail with an appropriate greeting, and the customer’s name, and end it with a professional closing statement and our name and email signature.

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