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Why Don’t Businesses Talk Like People? With Schulich School of Business Professor, Grant Packard

By Jeremy Weisz posted 03-23-2022 05:00 AM


A few simple changes in words you and your people use when talking to customers can profoundly affect customers’ feelings about your company, their loyalty and satisfaction, and their likelihood to buy. Advanced linguistic studies show that many of the scripts given to customer service people — and many of the ideas companies have about what makes for effective communication — are in fact wrong. How so? Professor Grant Packard talks about this and more as he joins Thomas A. Stewart on The Leading Edge — a place where new ideas emerge and are sharpened, and where leaders look to find the edge that brings success for themselves, their teams, and their enterprises.

Professor Packard has spent a decade researching the microeconomics of language, reviewing and analyzing transcripts of calls and online interactions, to uncover how we speak and how others receive and process what we say. What he has learned overturns a lot of conventional wisdom about how to engage with customers. Often, he finds, frontline employees are carefully schooled to speak as company representatives and mask their individual identities. That, it turns out, is a mistake. 

In their customer service scripts, employees are often taught to use “we” instead of the first person, signaling that they’re no more than a cog in the wheel of the company. But this tactic won’t get you very far with the customer. According to Professor Packard’s findings, customers prefer warm, personal, engaging conversations with employees — while at the same time, they want to know that the person they’re talking to has the skills and authority to solve their problems. That combination of empathy and expertise is what customers want. When you focus on the individual and give employees a playbook — not a script — you’re creating a better experience for all parties involved (and boosting ROI for your business)!

In this episode of The Leading Edge, Thomas A. Stewart talks with Schulich School of Business Professor, Grant Packard, about the power of language and how it can make or break your business. From warm and confident speech to the ins and outs of customer service scripts, Professor Packard breaks down his research findings, discusses the ways in which communication goes wrong in business, and shares strategies to improve connections between employees and consumers.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you will learn:

  • Professor Grant Packard details his research on language, communication, and the retail industry
  • Where do customer service scripts go wrong?
  • The key to success with word of mouth marketing
  • Balancing warmth and confidence in customer interactions
  • Sales versus customer service: how do they differ in regards to language?
  • The value of focusing on the individual
  • Professor Packard discusses his current research topics

About Our Guest:

Grant Packard Grant Packard is the Associate Professor of Marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. He studies the consumption and production of language, and his expertise lies in data-intensive marketing strategies in retail, media, cultural products, financial services, and consumer packaged goods. Professor Packard’s original research appears in outlets such as the Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Psychological Science, MIT Sloan Management Review, and others. He also currently serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Consumer Psychology and as an Editorial Board Member at the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing.

Professor Packard received his PhD from the University of Michigan, his MBA from McGill University, and his BS from the University of Colorado Boulder. He was selected as an MSI Young Scholar by the Marketing Science Institute and received the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode:

The Leading Edge is brought to you by AchieveNEXT. 

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