How to wind your customers up. And how to make them happy.

This week brought me two tone of voice experiences – one happy, one sad. Let’s look at the duffer first.

Poor tone of voice, terrible experience

Somehow I’ve got myself locked out of my Flickr account, and none of the details I have will unlock it. I closed my account after 1bn customer accounts were exposed in a hack last year. But if you google ‘flickr ben afia’ I’m definitely still there.

I’ve been sucked into a self-service infinite loop that I can’t escape. I try to recover my account and get some weird, shouty forced-jollity (why all the exclamation marks?):

Then I end up with another one that gets a bit more serious on me:

Then I end up with something telling me not to be confused, but that really confuses me:

If anyone can tell me what that all meant, please let me know. And if you’re remotely visually inclined, you’ll have noticed that the visual branding is all over the shop.

One way to make fans happy

Here’s the happy example:

Tandem are a start-up bank, and I’m one of their Co-Founders. That doesn’t mean much more than I’ve signed up to hear from them and I get to test out early things like their nifty account aggregator app.

Perhaps because the relationship’s in the early stages, Tandem realise they need to work on it – draw Founders in and make us feel part of a community.

This week’s email sounds more human than the usual bank stuff (especially given my recent awful experience with Barclays), but avoided straying too far into overly-matey banter:

I like the storytelling, the slightly deadpan touch and how the illustrations bring things to life:

And the human approach makes me feel appreciated, having given some feedback on the app:

I’d perhaps have looked for less formal words than ‘processed’, ‘prioritised’, ‘ensuring’ and ‘users’.

But you could also argue those words balance the friendly ones, to combine warmth with a little gravitas.

Two tone stories – one sad, one happy

These aren’t just about tone of voice, of course. I suspect Flickr and Yahoo’s problem is a mishmash of systems accumulated through years and corporate buy-outs.

And things are easier for Tandem, because, unlike the big old banks, they don’t have legacy systems and hundreds of template letters that haven’t been rewritten in years, and get out sent automatically.

But Tandem have thought about the relationship they want to build with their Co-Founders, and they’re working on it.

Well done Tandem. And Flickr, please let me have my account back. Thank you.