Vodafone empathy training


NPS (customer satisfaction) rose by 15-20%. Average chat length fell by 5%. Impressive saving of £0.5m a year.

Vodafone wanted to be number one for customer service and they were doing a good job. But they had a problem – their customer service agents in India struggled with webchats. Escalations, quality scores and average chats times weren’t quite on target. So they asked us to help them make things better for their 1,000 people in three contact centres.

Where do you start fixing a problem like this?

It comes down to empathy.

What makes us different

We started by identifying the differences between Indian and UK culture. Brits are passive-aggressive and we don’t alway say what we mean, so if you grow up in India you might not pick up our subtle cues.  And that makes communicating tricky when two cultures come together. If Brits tell a friend “I’m a bit disappointed”, they’ll know they’re in serious trouble. In India? No big deal. So you can imagine how confused the team were, trying to listen and help some very frustrated customers.

Understanding first, training second

Once we had a handle on the cultural differences we developed a two-day empathy training course, designed to help everyone understand those differences. Then we could start helping everyone see the human on the other side of the call and connect with them instead of using cliches and scripts. We ran pilots and trained the trainers to help 1000 people talk conversationally in the Vodafone tone. And that meant it would stick long-term.


Vodafone started out with simple outcomes. Reduce escalations. And we did that. Improve quality scores. Yep, their NPS (customer satisfaction) rose by 15-20%. And finally, reduce webchat times. We nailed that too, with the average chat length falling by 5%. Making these teams more empathetic improved their overall performance, so they didn’t need to replace 50 team members who naturally left over time. And what did that mean? An impressive saving of £0.5m a year.

Vodafone tone of voice

Vodafone are great at connecting their customers. But they knew they could do better when it came to connecting with them. Over the past few decades, the original mobile telecoms company had grown fast and changed much. As has the way people communicate. So they realised that meant they had to change how they were writing to people. They needed a tone of voice to give consistency to the many emails, texts and other communications they send to customers every year. A brand tone that would bring all their communications together under one easy-to-understand roof.

Luckily it didn’t take too long to find the nub of the new brand tone. In our very first meeting their brand team said, ‘I love your strapline, helping companies sound more human. That’s what we need’. And so it began.

Hold on tight

Vodafone like to move fast. So before we knew it we were presenting our ideas for the new brand tone direct to the CEO. Getting the top brass onside is always important, so we were chuffed that he was taking a personal interest. It helped us get to the heart of what felt right and true about the brand. And just how to express that in words.

Then came brand tone guidelines that would be used by everyone across the business who communicates with Vodafone’s customers day in, day out.

The dust had barely settled on the new guidelines when we started training people in how to write in the new tone. We’ve run hands-on tone workshops with hundreds of people from marketing, brand, legal, compliance, IT, incident management, customer service and external creative agencies. And they’ve gone down incredibly well:

As an ex-trainer, I’m a terrible delegate and often find it hard to stay engaged on courses. Today was the first time, for a very long time that I was able to remain fully engaged, comfortable and excited. Thanks so much for today’s workshop.

Diving in

But a new tone of voice doesn’t take hold overnight. Vodafone had thousands of communications that needed rewriting. So we dived in and showed them how to apply the new tone to a range of different things – emails, texts, web copy, letters, presentations. The perfect way to showcase the new way of writing.

We even went native, with one of our team spending a few months in Newbury helping their in-house digital team bring the new tone to life.

More power

Vodafone have taken to their new brand tone with gusto. It’s spreading throughout the business from the CEO right down to the guys running the Twitter accounts. There are brand tone evangelists holding their own mini tone sessions with colleagues, and copywriters working to refresh standard communications. It’s a big place and there’s still some way to go, but the Vodafone brand tone is there to stay.