A human experience for PayPal customers

Changing the way PayPal communicated to create a more human-centred experience for customers.

Client: PayPal
Type of project: Tone of voice, communication and service experience
Region: UK and Europe


The brainchild of Elon Musk during his San Francisco garage business days – PayPal has become a household name. Their meteoric rise with eBay had meant that, in 2018, they processed over $132 billion globally. 

With this scale of operation comes a huge amount of communication to customers – much of it operational, support or account related. And we mean huge. In the UK alone around 3 billion messages are sent to customers each year.

Following the split with eBay, PayPal embarked on a global rebrand to reinforce and reposition itself as a leader in peer-to-peer payments. 

As is often the case with re-branding the process had so far focused on key positioning, marketing and branding material.

But customers tend to make judgements on a business less on its logo and more on the service experience they have with it. How easy, authentic and human the business is when it actually delivers the service.

We got involved when the focused shifted to how to operationalise the new brand position – primarily though service delivery, experience design and the touchpoints and communication to customers.

What needed to change

Humanising the service: A new breed of FinTech was approaching service design and user experience in a far more people-centred way and PayPal needed to address this. There were parts of the service that felt clunky, disjointed and high effort for customers.

A more human tone of voice: To date PayPal’s tone of voice had been a little stiff and robotic. There was a tendency to sound more “professional” than human which didn’t reflect where they wanted to go. PayPal needed to find a tone they could use throughout all their operational and service communication that felt more them.

Auditing and improving touchpoints: Alongside a new tone we needed to review and improve a range of key touchpoints. These would serve as exemplars for the rest of the business as well as fixing the most pressing (or most used) communication with customers.

What we did

How can we create a tone of voice that shows we’ve changed?

Tone of voice can sometimes get a bad wrap – particularly when it’s delivered as a series of adjectives everyone’s expected to follow.

Creating a new tone of voice for PayPal didn’t start with a list of 5 adjectives. It started with what actually mattered to customers. A shift from an overly formal, financial style to a more relaxed, human style that reflected the people who worked there.

We spent time helping teams find their own way of shifting from formal language to a more relaxed and clearer tone. Focusing not just on what was said but how it was said – because that’s what really makes the difference. 

The guidelines (and they were exactly that rather than rules) helped teams find a balance in how they communicated – recognising that although PayPal was responsible for people’s financial transactions that didn’t mean they should come across as cold and stoic. 

The new tone was about making this global corporation more human, thoughtful and relaxed in the way in had conversations with customers. 

Applying the tone to key communication

The breath of communication at PayPal meant auditing and rewriting it all centrally wasn’t practical or cost efficient. Instead we were able to highlight a range of key operational and service communication that were used most often or tended to impact the customer experience.

This covered a wide range of teams from CRM, finance, legal, marketing and operations. We worked alongside them to rewrite all key communication for that department – training and mentoring along the way.

Supporting in key service design challenges

Alongside the communication support we also worked with certain parts of the business to review their service experience and offer recommendations for improvements.

This involved reviewing customer journeys, key moments of truth for users and experience design for operational areas that had, to date, not been reviewed from a customer’s perspective.

In summary

  • Following a rebrand PayPal wanted to look at how the operationalise their new position and make it real for customers.
  • They needed to change how they sounded, communicated and the quality of the customer experience.
  • We helped them define how they wanted to sound, worked with teams to implement key communications and gave support on customer journeys to improve the service experience.

If you’re doing something similar at the moment we’d love to chat and see if we can help.