Learn To Speak “Customer”: 4 Ways Business Language Matters


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How do you speak when you communicate with your customers? Do you use industry jargon, or do you adapt your language to what your customers say? The words you choose can determine the path your client relationships take.

The language you use when you work with customers is becoming more crucial due to the growth of chatbots and other kinds of AI. These tools aim to use a “natural language” system that resembles standard speech, but they’re only effective if you shape that language.

Businesses have to strike a balance and build a shared vocabulary with their customer base. If your company is in the process of implementing AI or simply wishes to grease the customer service process, you’ll need to improve your business vocabulary.

Here are four solid ways to build a shared language.

1. Know Your Audience

First, when you decide whether to employ technical language in sales or service, think about your target audience. If you’re selling home computer products, for example, you may be tempted to stick to the proper lingo for parts and devices.

But your customers may not be comfortable with such jargon, and you could easily alienate them with it. If your customer base largely consists of IT professionals, however, both sides probably use the same language.

Use of technical terms with those customers is unlikely to pose any problems. It’s all about knowing to whom you’re speaking.

2. Let Them Hear It

One of the best ways to help customers learn the technical language of your industry is by starting a relevant podcast where you can share insights, tips for customers, and other useful information. You can also use it to give customers a peek behind the scenes at your business.

The topics you cover in a podcast are less important than finding ways to make the lingo of your industry feel natural to your customers. For example, you might offer a primer on key industry concepts, in which you discuss and define relevant terms.

Or you could discuss recent customer service interactions in a troubleshooting podcast, and actively bridge the gap between the language customers use and the verbiage you employ.

Hearing the words, rather than just reading them, makes customers grow more comfortable with technical language.

3. Preview New Technology

If you’re planning to introduce chatbots or other AI into your customer service system in the near future, and those systems entail the use of particular terms, take the time to introduce the language to your customers, even if those systems are programmed to learn from customer interactions.

When the British retailer Ocado introduced an AI system in its customer call center, the system initially struggled to deal with routine emails because it was still learning the syntax and typical words in customer messages. It also struggled when customers left a required field blank.

This happened even though the program was only being used for simple interactions. Computer learning, like human learning, takes time.

Your company may avoid such difficulties by priming customers on the new system through a blog post or automated message. Briefly outline what people should do when they send messages through the new system, and warn them they might not receive the expected outcome if they don’t follow the directions.

4. Build It Yourself

Finally, if you’ve customarily used informal language with your customers, you can’t expect them to change overnight … and you might not desire them to. If it’s more in your interest to continue discussing technical issues in everyday language, you might consider building your own chatbot system.

Sometimes it’s better to stick with your own precedents than to try to develop a new method of communication with your clients. It will keep them at ease and take the pressure off everyone in house, as well. Shared language doesn’t have to be the language of the industry.

Customer service is an art, not a science; which can make using AI and other tech tools tricky, because they function on the assumption that interactions can always be quantified. This makes it especially worthwhile for you to spend time developing a common language with your customers and doing so through empathetic interactions.

Computers can do a lot, but great service will inevitably necessitate the human touch.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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