How plain language cuts call center costs

The secret to reducing call center costs is so simple. Use plain language in your communications.
Fergal McGovern

CEO & Founder

3 min read

How do you keep call center costs down? You could:

  • Track agents’ performance
  • Address training needs
  • Change up staffing models
  • Consider outsourcing

No doubt you’re already looking into a few of these. But there’s something that many organizations overlook, that could make a huge difference to your bottom line. And it’s so simple. Use plain language in your communications.

Plain language cuts through the noise

Think about why customers call you. They are busy people, like you, with lives full of deadlines, school drop-offs, tax forms to file, coffee with friends. The last thing they want to do is phone their bank. So why do they call? Because they need answers. To continue the banking example, perhaps they’re unclear on their loan structure. Maybe they didn’t understand certain details of your terms and conditions. Or perhaps they’re having trouble completing a form. PLAIN, the network supporting the use of clear communication in government writing, says it best:

“Plain language means readers understand your documents more quickly. Readers call less often for explanations. They make fewer errors filling out forms. They comply more accurately and quickly with requirements.”

Words matter. Communicating in plain language results in less customer confusion. This leads to fewer questions and a reduced workload for your call center. But that’s not all. For those who embrace plain language, the benefits don’t stop there.

Some call center case studies

Need convincing? We’ve got a couple of case studies to show how this works in practice. Recently, one of our insurance clients improved their benefit letters using VT Writer, part of VT Insights Platform. We analyzed some letters, and our system automatically flagged:

  • Long sentences
  • Passive voice
  • Industry jargon
  • Poor readability

The letters were overly complex and difficult to consume. Our client made the necessary changes and sent out new benefit letters written in plain language. The result? A drop of 19% in customer calls, and a saving of $325k annually.

In another example, a government agency eliminated “tax speak” from their notices. A 10-page notification package full of jargon-laden terms and “frightening” vocabulary became engaging notices written in plain English. Taxpayer confusion dropped by 50%, and they saw a 23% drop in call center traffic. Not only that, but taxpayers became more willing to part with their money. The simple act of using plain language humanized the whole process and made people more inclined to pay up. The result was a 3% increase in people paying within four weeks.

Call center costs - plain language

See, that’s the great thing about using plain language. It drives down call center costs, yes. But it also boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers feel reassured by simple, effective communications where the language used does not present barriers to understanding.

The benefits of using plain language are clear, so why are so many organizations missing this trick? Very few companies set out to deliberately create complex content. So what’s happening?

Consider that multiple teams across an organization are now creating consumer-facing content. Almost every department, in fact, from Marketing and Communications to Legal, HR, Product, Sales, Operations, and Support. They’re probably also spread across borders and timezones. Many individuals will have good writing skills, but some won’t. Some will apply your style guide and tone of voice consistently, but many won’t. It’s clear why brands struggle to keep a single tone of voice, and a consistent level of plain language.

The solution? Score your content across all channels

The challenge is how to measure all this content, ensure it’s on-brand and easy to consume. VisibleThread allows you to do just that. Our Insights Platform offers a solution to easily keep tabs on the readability of all your online and offline content. And track readability and tone of voice across your whole organization. It doesn’t matter which teams are writing content or where they’re based. Everyone (writers and non-writers) can easily score their own writing.

For those organizations who manage to do this, the gains are huge. It’s clear that communicating in plain language reduces your call center costs, and saves resources. But it’s a secret weapon that also increases customers’ engagement and loyalty towards you. The result is happier customers who are less likely to churn. Great for customer engagement, and great for your bottom line.


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