Tone of voice guidelines to create a cultural shift

Tone of voice guidelines that created a cultural shift for Westway Trust. Bringing a human face to an innovative social enterprise.

Client: Westway Trust
Type of project: Cultural change, Tone of voice, Service Training
Region: London

A human tone of voice

When Europe’s longest stretch of elevated motorway came to North Kensington in the mid-1960s, it left a trail of destruction in its wake. Streets were chopped in two, and homes were either demolished or left abandoned as tens of thousands of cars a day trundled past their windows.

In response to protests, the mile-long strip of land beneath the Westway flyover was given to residents and the Westway Trust was set up in partnership with the local authority – giving the community the chance to decide what happened and a chance to recover from the damage caused. 

Today, Westway Trust is a powerful example of a dynamic social enterprise working across arts, funding, education and housing. It’s testament to a community standing up for themselves and in doing so creating something remarkable from the ashes. 

Westway had recently gone through a re-brand, deifinf their vision for the future and how they could add value to the community they felt so responsible for. 

We often get involved in post re-brand projects when the challenge faced is “how do we deliver on our promise in the service experience we deliver?”

Human, empowering tone of voice guidelines

An opportunity for change: The rebrand offered the opportunity to review the service experiences Westway gave across all its areas. Aligning the rebrand to a new way of “how they did things” and the way they communicated with customers.

Reflecting reality with tone: The teams at Westway Trust put a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm into their work and genuinely cared about their customers. This wasn’t always evident in their tone – which was sometimes verbose, officious or a little cold. This in turn impacted customer perception and needed to change.

Empathy with every interaction: There was a need to support service teams look and sound more empathetic in the way they delivered the service. The variety of business units and activities Westway Trust are involved in meant certain areas needed to review their service from the customer’s perspective and change what they did and how they worked accordingly.

What we did

A service and tone that reflected reality

Westway had asked us to develop a tone of voice and new attitude to customer experience that operationalise their rebrand so it began to affect the overall experience customers had. They recognised that times had changed since the charity was founded, and were keen to bring their communications and service experience up to date to reflect this.

We reviewed a range of services to understand the types of journey (and experience) customers had. We also used objective scoring to assess the readability and tone of the charity’s current comms.

Both involved time shadowing and working with customer-facing teams so that we’d be able to understand the charity’s diverse audiences and the typical situations staff were dealing with. This way, we’d also be able to develop real-life examples for use during training, keeping it interesting and relevant by reflecting the charity’s actual activities, from running a sports centre to developing and maintaining properties.

We developed recommendations to improve key service areas and revised tone of voice guidelines to support teams to communicate more naturally. ‘People talking to people’ was the order of the day.

We also supported in developing a range of key service communication inline with a more human, customer-centric tone.

delivering a customer-centric service

You can have all the brand guideline documents you like, but if staff don’t live and breathe them in the real world, they’re not going to be much help. We wanted to make the charity’s new branding feel more real for front-line teams so that the full effects of the rebrand would permeate through the whole organisation.

Our service experience and tone of voice guidelines translated Westway’s five new core values into meaningful examples of what they mean for how to deliver the service as well as written and verbal comms. To accompany them, we designed a set of tools to help staff put the new brand values into action in everyday situations. We developed fun exercises to show staff how to speak in the language of their customers, encouraging a relaxed, more personal style. Finally, we coached Westway’s own training teams to pass on this knowledge to every customer-facing member of staff.

The new and improved Westway service speaks to customers in a more authentic, human tone of voice, and reflects the charity’s position as a innovative and customer-centred social enterprise.

In summary

  • Following an initial brand refresh Westway Trust wanted to change the way it communicated and offered its service to customers.
  • We developed a new tone of voice, rewrote a range of standard service communication and supported in training teams in better customer service.

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