Today, I’d like to talk about a common but sneaky mistake that lots of businesses, including my clients, often make without realizing its impact. It’s a misstep that I’ve noticed not just in professional settings, but also as a customer myself. The issue at hand revolves around the use of technical terminology when communicating with customers. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the art of striking the right balance between clear communication and expert jargon.
The Balancing Act: Speaking Customer-Centric Language
Picture this: you’re an expert in your field, a master of technical terms, and fluent in the intricate language of your industry. You speak in a way that comes as naturally to you as drinking your morning coffee. But here’s the catch: not everyone you interact with is as well-versed in your field. Your customers, while seeking your expertise, might not grasp the technical terms you’re so comfortable using. This can lead to a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings, and even dissatisfied clients.
Think about the following example: my dog had injured her leg, and I rushed her to the vet’s office. Now, I’m no veterinarian, and I’m certainly not a dog anatomy expert. Yet, the vet started explaining the issue using technical jargon like “tore her cruciate,” leaving me utterly confused. It wasn’t until she broke it down as the doggy equivalent of an ACL tear that I understood what was going on. The point is, even though she was well within her rights to use the medical term, her approach left me feeling talked down to, and our interaction lacked the warmth and clarity that would have made the situation much better.
A Common Mistake in Accounting
Let’s switch gears to the world of accounting, an area notorious for its confusing terminology. I often find myself acting as a bridge between my clients and their accountants, converting difficult financial terminology into simple language. It’s not uncommon for clients to come to me saying, “I don’t understand what my accountant meant by that.” This is an issue, particularly in written communication, where accountants might send emails filled with acronyms and terms that might as well be in a foreign language. Terms like “P&L,” “balance sheet,” and “cash flow statement” are daily bread for accountants, but for the average person, they might as well be hieroglyphics.
Accountants, take note: your clients hired you to handle their financial matters precisely because they lack your expertise. Assuming they’ll understand your technical terms is a surefire way to alienate them. Remember, it’s not about making them feel foolish; it’s about ensuring they’re on the same page as you. The same rule applies to virtually any field, from medicine to law. Doctors, for example, often struggle with this due to the unique terminology of their profession. As experts, they’re trained to use precise language that accurately describes medical conditions. However, communicating these terms to patients who lack a medical background requires finesse.
Communication Strategies that Work
So, how do you thread the needle between sounding knowledgeable and speaking your customers’ language? The answer lies in adopting a customer-centric communication approach. Imagine you’re a doctor tasked with explaining a complex medical condition to a patient. Instead of launching into an intricate description of the condition’s scientific name, begin by breaking it down in simpler terms. This not only shows respect for your patient’s limited medical knowledge but also fosters a trusting relationship.
In the business world, the same principle applies. Let’s say you’re a software developer discussing intricate coding with a client who’s not tech-savvy. Instead of overwhelming them with technical jargon, try explaining the concept using relatable analogies. For instance, compare coding to building blocks that come together to create a digital structure. This helps bridge the knowledge gap and establish a stronger connection.
Training for Success: Sharing the Lingo with Employees
Here’s an angle that often gets overlooked: employee training. When new team members join your company, they’re stepping into a world full of terms and acronyms that are second nature to your veterans. Throwing them into the deep end without providing a life vest in the form of explanations can lead to confusion, decreased productivity, and even demotivation.
Consider a scenario in the medical field. A new nurse joins a hospital where established staff use numerous abbreviations to communicate quickly and efficiently. Without a proper orientation to these terms, the new nurse might struggle to understand instructions, leading to critical errors.
The solution? Implementing a comprehensive training program that includes explanations of jargon and a questions-allowed policy.
Conclusion: The Art of Clear Communication
In a world filled with technical jargon, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that not everyone speaks the same language as you do. Using expert terms might make you feel authoritative, but it can alienate and confuse your customers. Striking the right balance between speaking your industry’s language and communicating effectively with your customers is an art worth mastering.
The next time you’re interacting with a customer, whether you’re explaining medical conditions, financial matters, or intricate technical processes, remember that your job is to make things clearer. Replace the fear of sounding less knowledgeable with the satisfaction of making a positive impact on your customer’s experience. This shift in perspective can lead to happier, more satisfied customers who truly appreciate your expertise.
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About Abby Johnson
Abby Johnson, is Matterhorn Business Development’s Chief Mentor, resident organizational genius and Certified Profit First Professional, helping our clients grow and organize their businesses. With a passion for empowering businesses to thrive and extensive experience in helping clients grow their revenue and manage their finances profitability, she’s committed to making a positive impact on your business.