Corporate Eye

What’s in Your Tone? How to Communicate Effectively

I invited Stuart Hearn, who has worked in HR for over 20 years, to write a post for us about how internal communication can affect external communication.


What’s in Your Tone? How to Communicate Effectively

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

Getting your point across while simultaneously acknowledging the point of the person you’re talking to isn’t always easy — particularly if the other person is an employee receiving feedback, or a customer giving feedback.

Internal and external communication are both extremely important to a company’s success. External communication is often prioritised because it’s focused on the customer, but internal communication could be impacting your company’s external communication.

External Communication

Brand voice is something that companies spend a lot of time considering — how does their brand sound? Is their brand voice connecting with their customers? Is their brand voice consistent across their website, social media, customers services and sales team?

A brand voice should be singular and consistent. Brand voice can have different tones, just as an individual’s own voice can. Tone should adjust to empathise with the customer being communicated to.

Your tone online and in marketing materials should reflect your style of business. Finance based companies tend to use jargon to create demonstrate authority and come across as well informed. Contrastingly, a children’s party business would be friendlier and bouncier in tone and use more simple sentences.

In scenarios involving customers, the tone needs to be able to adjust. Is there a disgruntled and frustrated customer on the end of the phone? The tone of voice needs to be empathetic and diligent. How about a client who is worried, teetering dangerously close to the edge of panic? A reassuring and informative tone of voice would be needed.

Getting the tone of voice pitch perfect is an integral part of effective communication. Without it, a dialogue can become frustrating or simply hard work when the two or more people involved aren’t on the same page. As a business, it’s down to them to get the tone of voice right and make sure they’re making the utmost effort to be on the customer’s page.

This is easier said than done, and actually the tone of internal communications may play a larger role in external communications than businesses realise.

Internal Communication

A company’s internal communication impacts external communication. Employees who feel valued and satisfied in the workplace through clear and motivational communication with their managers and co-workers will make customers feel valued and satisfied.

The European Proceedings of Social & Behavioural Sciences (PDF) states: “Internal communication activities focus on better informing and engaging an organisation’s workforce. The way in which such news and information is received, discussed and acted upon by employees will ultimately have a positive or negative influence on business performance.”

Think about the tone of voice in internal communication. An employee spoken to tersely by a manager may be quick to turnaround and converse in the same manner with a customer, whereas a manager with a lot of energy in their voice can instil that same passion in employees. As Sue Shellenbarger writes: “An energetic voice comes across to listeners as authentic, inspiring trust.”

The way companies communicate internally is changing for the better. The influence of the digital world and social media has affected the way we communicate in the workplace. We expect instant, real-time communication and the introduction of innovative performance management software reflects that.

Increasingly companies are introducing feedback apps that can be accessed by any employee, from any device and any time they choose. These apps allow teams to collaborate constantly, enable employees to give and receive real-time feedback and give managers directions on how to ensure that the tone of feedback is always constructive.

When the right tone is used, internal communication can motivate employees and, in turn, improve external communication and customer satisfaction.

Thanks Stuart!

Stuart Hearn is an HR Director and entrepreneur specialising in performance management software. Stuart has worked in the HR sector for over 20 years and previously cofounded PlusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy organisation, and Onetouchteam, a cloud-based HR management tool. Connect with Stuart on LinkedIn.

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