“Well, her pH looks good, and so does the CBC. But I’m worried about the electrolytes. You see here? They’re at 300. But there’s no reason she can’t go home. Just have her drink some Gatorade.”

And with that, the doctor left the exam room. (To be honest, the above is not a direct quote. I really don’t know what the hell the doctor said.)

A midnight run to the ER with my grandmother. And neither she nor I had any idea what had caused her dizzy spell.

Doctors are known for their inability to explain to patients, in laymen’s terms, what’s going on. And they’re not alone. In the business world, many companies sabotage customer relationships and lose sales because they use in-house shorthand, jargon, and corporate-speak.

I have never returned to the department store, for example, where an employee repeatedly (and with contempt) asked me for the “skew” of an item I wanted to special order. (Turned out he was saying “SKU,” short for stock-keeping unit, which is a way to track inventory.)

And my wife was driven to the point of exhaustion by a phone company customer service rep who said she couldn’t answer any questions until she had a “CIN.” Turns out this “customer identification number” (not to be confused with the account number), is printed in microscopic type on the monthly bill.

There are countless examples. And because employees are accustomed to talking like this within the company, many don’t realize when they are using language that is incomprehensible to people in the outside world… including their customers.

The last thing you want is to make your customers feel like outsiders. So check your customer service and marketing messages with an objective eye. Are you communicating with your customers using terms and phrases they don’t understand? When discussing technical issues, are you breaking them down and making them easy to digest?

If you’re not communicating with your customers on their level… you’re losing sales.

 

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