Avoiding use of jargon with Customers

“Do you tell your customers that you understand or do you tell your customers that you can see or hear how frustrated they are?” – skilljunction.com.au

So your company and its representatives want to appear smart and in complete know-how of the industry you and your customers operate in? Using jargon with customers makes you appear smart right? Wrong! Customers are very easily vexed by the use of words and language that make no sense to them – it makes them feel dumb especially if it is in response to something they asked you. Seriously – in an already tough market can you and should you risk losing customers because you speak in a ‘language’ they cannot comprehend? Jargon with customers is a waste of time and effort and all it does is alienate even your longest standing customers. Avoid using jargon with customers.

We are not denying that there are terms and phrases in every business and every kind of job that would constitute jargon. These work well within the organization and among the teams. These terms are focused, short and specific and are easily understood within the organization and among the members of the company. In fact, such ‘lingo’ is a great way to build affinity and culture and is a great way for people within the organization to bond and also to share laughs – which is great way to cement relationships. In fact, the use of jargon becomes a part of everyday life and conversations and can be quite tough to avoid as they are often the way to describe a number of things within the company.

However, using jargon with customers can have quite the opposite reaction. To customers and ‘outsiders’ these specific words and phrases would have no meaning and it would seem like the company is hiding behind these words or making a jest of the relationship. Continued use of jargon with customers will weaken the association and could have the customer actively looking out for a company that respects them and uses language they will understand. The challenge for customer service and other teams that regularly interface  is consciously avoiding use of jargon with customers and speak to the customers in a refined and easily comprehensible manner of communication.

It is the responsibility of the company and its leaders to ensure that your customer facing staff steer clear of jargon with customers and must be regularly reminded and coached on other phrases and words that would help customers understand. It is vital to avoid, technical words, slangs and other phrases not used outside of your industry, with customers. Customers feel alienated and unwelcome – it is a natural reaction which all of us would have felt when we were faced with such situations as customers.

The whole idea of customer service and of a business is being able to give the customers what they want, pay attention to them and behave courteously and professionally with them. Jargon with customers is one among the many things that constitute the opposite of what they expect. It is important to listen and be attentive to the customers – listen for the words and phrases they use and seem comfortable with. You might be surprised that they would understand and be using some of the words that are part of the technical or other jargon that your company uses. If they don’t seem comfortable it is best to find words and phrases that are lucid for them. If your customer seems confused and impatient, it could be because you are not able to elucidate well enough. Avoiding use of jargon with customers is not restricted to verbal conversations only and must be avoided even when communicating with the customer via a written medium.

Since every company knows that they would have some terms and phrases that could be exclusive to their industry and even company, it becomes even more binding on them to stop using them with customers and others who would not understand them. Take the help of a professional if your employees, especially the technical staff, find it tough to avoid jargon with customers. Continuous training and coaching is required to maintain the balance between what your employees speak and understand with what your customers grasp.

The other major reason of avoiding use jargon with customers is that the use of these words and phrases can mislead customers in to believing that they are being talked down to and being purposefully confused. Jargon also sounds pompous and arrogant leaving your customer rather irate and disgruntled. Customers are a smart lot and treating them otherwise cannot have any positive effects. Why would you insist on using terminology that is not only misunderstood but is boring, confusing and serves no purpose from a customer’s point of view? You cannot run a company in isolation and cannot remain in business without customers, so why give customers reasons that can be easily avoided, to deflect to your competition.

We have discussed repeatedly that communication is key for customer engagement and for positive customer experiences. Now if the communication is present but the words used are pretentious, odd sounding and incomprehensible, there is no way that customers will want to speak with you and would want to get out of the business relationship real soon. Why should a customer give you his valuable business and time when your company cannot even make the effort to speak clearly and in a manner that they understand? Would you want to be a customer of such a company?

Some of the reasons that your company’s representatives continually use jargon with customers is probably to sound intelligent and important and are probably under the impression that such words would impress the customer. Do remember that customers already know that your company has expertise, which is why they chose to do business with you in the first place. If despite their best efforts, jargon does slip out, they must check back if the customer understood and apologize if the words made no sense and explain in normal language.

Training and monitoring will keep your customer service and customer interfacing teams, conscious about avoiding jargon. They must avoid abbreviations while communicating with customers, especially those abbreviations that are not commonly used but specific to the company. Ensure that when written communication is going out, it is written by someone with a strong command over the language and be re-read to ensure that it does not contain words and phrases that won’t make sense to the reader / customer.

Ask your customer service personnel to choose a verbal conversation over a written one with a customer, as far as possible. It is easier to get a point across and also understand the reactions of the customer. While speaking or writing, ensure that all the points of information and all relevant details are mentioned and are in language that will instil confidence in the customer or a prospective one. Confused and complicated communication wastes everyone’s time and reduces the amount of trust a customer has in your company. Avoid long and useless written communication as it only serves to waste the customer’s time and they may get frustrated enough to not even reach the part of the communication that actually has relevance for them. Seek the help of a professional content writer to put together templates and standard communication. These well-written documents can be personalized by the staff members depending on the customer they send it out to. However, you communicate, ensure that the communication exudes trust, honesty and transparency and the communication is engaging enough to draw the customer closer and a prospective one in.

Jargon is part of every business / industry but it certainly has no place in the delicate and intricate realm of customer service. Avoid jargon with customers if you want them to know that you are committed to them and that you respect their need for clear communication and a desire to be understood.

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