Forget jargon & talk the customer’s language

Posted: 18th November, 2020 in Business writing & email etiquette, Case Studies, Communications, Customer Service, Personal effectiveness, Sales , Tips & Tricks

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone is giving you advice and you don’t understand what they are saying?  They are speaking the same language, but are using words that make no sense and feel alien to you? 

Sometimes we may even start to feel a “Glazed look” come over our eyes. Still, we sit there, smile and say nothing. And the other person probably doesn’t even notice.

It’s probably fair to say many of us have been in this position. Yet, if we really think about it - how many of us can honestly say we have never been the person who spoke with jargon?  Few I’m sure.

Every profession has their own lingo. From the legal, medical, financial, IT or any other sector, there is a consistent yet unique language spoken in every industry.

For anyone beginning a new job or profession, everything feels new and you’re very much the novice. But after a while, you learn the ropes as you take on the dialect of colleagues. Then suddenly, it’s part of everyday life.

Yet, how often do you stop to think if people really understand what you are saying when you use jargon?  

There are many reasons why we need to watch our language when talking with customers

Most people don’t realise how they are coming across. The lingo may be familiar to them and their colleagues. Yet, they forget other people won’t always get it. Customers can feel like outsiders and it can be quite daunting and frustrating for them.

For people who are shy, insecure or lacking in confidence, they can feel intimidated. It may create a disconnect and mistrust as you come across as condescending or arrogant.

For others who are educated or confident, they won’t always tell you they don’t understand. They may be too embarrassed to admit it. So, they guess what it means. This can lead to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings. 

Other times, people may believe you are doing this intentionally. And if you lose their trust and their attention, they will switch off and buy elsewhere.

So, what can we do to change this? Here are seven points we can adopt to communicate better with customers.

  1. Know your audience – think about who you are talking to each time you connect with a customer. Establish their level of understanding and get the balance right. If you are talking to fellow professionals, they may also understand the language. However, don’t assume its exactly the same. Be prepared to keep an open-mind. 
  2. Keep it simple – this applies to all types of customers. Keep your language straight forward and adapt the customer’s style. Forget about lengthy phrases and long sentences. Avoid acronyms, pompous words or over-used business cliches with no real meaning.
  3. Use clear and descriptive language – avoid high-brow and long-winded examples. Use every-day analogies and case-studies that people can relate to, with clear explanations and definitions.
  4. Use visuals to share your story – using graphs, photos and diagrams can certainly help to explain “a thousand words”. This applies to both written documents and verbal conversations.
  5. Read your customer – when you’re talking to the customer on the phone, online or face-to-face, listen and watch their reaction. Tune into their body language and tone of voice. Make yourself relatable, get them onside so they are comfortable asking questions to clarify.
  6. Get the pace right – avoid information overload and slow down your presentation when talking to customers. Let them hear your words, mull them over and ask your questions as needed.
  7. Look for feedback – looking for feedback is vital in assessing the customers understanding. Asking for their opinion is key, rather than asking if they understand. The latter can be misinterpreted as patronising.
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