Speak Plainly or Forever Lose Your Customer

Part of the equation of success is being seen as relatable. From time to time, almost all of us hits this wall to one degree or another. And no, I’m not saying you have a personal failing here.

When you start a business, you either are an expert in your chosen field, or you become one through exposure, education and experience.

One thing you inevitably have to contend with is communicating to your customer or client. And it turns out that in some cases we might be giving them too much credit for understanding things of a technical nature. No one likes to admit they don’t understand something, and most simply nod and play along. It’s a defense mechanism to avoid feeling embarrassed, and we often learn through this approach things are explained anyway, and will fill our gaps in knowledge.

But enough about “us”, let’s talk about “them”. The general population, the consumer, your customers…the public.

Earlier this week a story hit the wires with some interesting information. There has been some expected back and forth on how valid the survey is, though the company who performed the survey is standing by its claims that this is valid. And apparently about 11% of Americans think HTML is an STD. Hit the link for the actual stats, but here’s a summary:

  • Most still have no idea what SEO stands for (search engine optimization)
  • Apparently a gigabyte is a South American insect
  • Motherboard? The deck of a cruise ship
  • Star Wars gave us a robot called MP3
  • Stunning biological news – a blu-ray is a marine animal
  • Software is, according to some, just comfortable clothing
  • USB is an acronym for a European country
  • And finally, over half of the respondents felt it’s important to have a good knowledge of technology today

Now, whether this survey is the real deal or not, we’ve all met people who we could easily imagine honestly fielding these answers.

And this serves as an important reminder. If even only 10% of the US population actually answered like this, that’s about 31 million people!

  • That’s more than 3 times the population of New York City.
  • Almost 10 times the population of Los Angeles
  • That’s half of Italy
  • More than half of England
  • Almost all of Canada!

From a business perspective what does this mean? Well, it could mean that the well cultivated 101 approach you’re taking needs a revamp. It could be that some of your customers are still getting confused. It means taking great care to clearly explain everything, provide details and answer even non-obvious questions.

If you’re using a manufacturer provided feed for your ecommerce site, it might pay to invest in fleshing out scant data across products. Start with the popular stuff and branch out from there.

It could mean taking even greater care to explain technical specifications or information. Assuming your customer can easily understand the manufacturer’s data, or will learn it could easily be a dead end…or an opportunity.

Online education is an expanding sector, so taking the time to prep material designed to help neophytes become better versed could pay dividends and separate you for the competition.

The bottom line here is to be careful when engaging with customers. They might be polite and smile and nod when you use technical terminology, but don’t assume they understand it. Make sure you take the necessary steps to educate them so they feel comfortable. It’s that comfort that leads to the sale. As we wrap up, here’s a business focused article around the worst buzzwords you can use inside your business. Are you guilty?

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager
Bing

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