‘Yes darling or okay babes’- the role of semantics in endearing or endangering customer experience.


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I am a big lover of fruits- with a very sweet and soft spot for bananas, pears and apples. A few hours ago, I made a short trip to an open air fruit market, at south east London. I was torn between two fruits stalls- like a high school girl, wooed by the two most popular boys from the school basket ball team. I went back and forth both stalls, adorned in much indecision as both had a similar array of fresh and colourful fruits. One stand served customers without saying much- aside, “It’s £2 pounds please.” The second stall, had a bubbly and spirited lady enthusing, “Yes darling, anything more.” At other moments she would say, “Thank you darling;” after the customers pay, and end by saying, “Have a good day darling.” You could guess where my allegiance or pounds would sway towards, not the dispirited seller but the passionate lady with the magic word ‘DARLING.’ I picked a hand of bananas, and was about to pay for that, but the friendly use of the powerful phrase, “Thank you Darling,” inspired me to include some apples to my shopping cart.

On a different note, I came across a guy that worked for a retail outlet; he constantly struggled in achieving above 50% on his customer feedback metrics. On one occasion, a customer left a comment through the fizzback voice of the customer platform, on how she received a great service from him, but was not comfortable with how often she was referred to as ‘Babes.’ He used ‘Okay Babes,’ on too many occasions, which made her feel uncomfortable and did not get maximum 10, on the fizzback metrics.

These are two scenarios, similar intentions but contrasting outcomes. It comes down to something known as semantics, a branch of linguistics and logistics concerned with meaning. It also could be conceived as the meaning of words, phrase or text. In customer experience, the use of the appropriate words within the apt context, determines if you end up with a satisfied or irritated customer.

It is very important to understand that words are very powerful in endearing or endangering the experience of customers. Understanding, the context and applying the relevant set of phrases and words would determine if customers would keep buying from you or try the competition. In some cases, it is critical to use powerful words like -darling, sweet, lovely, boss, babes, Sir, Madam, friend, mate and host of others, to either touch the hearts, massage the ego or inspire the minds of your customers.

Secondly, the context or business environment is essential, in understanding the role of powerful semantics. In a construction, building, railway or raw masculine business environment, the use of phrases like ‘thank you boss or yes boss,’ might be very instrumental in endearing the customer as it helps massage the ego. In an open stall, less formal and unstructured retail outlet, the use of ‘thank you darling,’ could hold sway. In a make-up, beauty or cosmetic retail outlet- using words like beautiful, pretty or lovely, to address your customers, could endear them. When you come into a more formal and structured setting, then addressing customers as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ could never go wrong.

Suffice it to say that, customers have emotions, egos and personalities that yearn for praise, complement or recognition. As you realise that customers differ, on so many fronts, using the appropriate words or phrases is a ‘no brainer.’ The business context differs, customers are a bit similar and somewhat dissimilar, understanding and training your staff to utilise the right words would either endear or endanger your customer experience. Are you endearing or endangering your customer experience with your semantics?

Dateme Tamuno
Dateme Tamuno (Tubotamuno) is currently working as part of the SEO and PPC delivery team for UK based digital agency, Cariad Marketing. He has also completed a book on user-generated content marketing.


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