Do you speak your Customer’s Language?

Are you bilingual? Every person in business should be bilingual — speaking the language of his/her business and the language of his/her customer.

What do I mean?

Back when I was leading software development teams, I had to speak two languages in order to do my job. One language was that of the programmers, the technical language where everything had a precise meaning and ambiguities were dangerous. The other language was that of the client — the people we were developing the software for. Their language was a combination of high-level, abstract concepts and very concrete things. Part of my job was to help translate what the customer wanted into terms the programmers could act on.

You have a similar job. You are an expert in your business. You have technical terms and jargon that people in your industry use. You may even have special “short-cut” terms that you have made up just for your business.

I remember a sitcom where a customer walks into a diner, sits at the counter, and orders two eggs, sunny side up, and a cup of coffee. The waitress turns and yells to the back “Hey Frank, gimme two hen fruit, bright-eyes, and a cup o’ joe.”

And it’s okay to have that special jargon. Just don’t expect your customer to know it or to use it.

It’s your job to know and understand your customer, not the other way around. And most of us know this at an intellectual level. But take a look at your signs, your advertising, the way you speak to your customer. Is it using his/her language or is it using yours?

One of the problems with being an expert, an “insider”, an authority (and you are all of those in your business) is that it becomes hard to see what your customer sees. It is hard to communicate on the customer’s wavelength.

This is one of the reasons that so many businesses bring in an outside firm to consult or coach them — the outsider can bring the fresh look that the insider lost long ago.

Whether you use an outsider to check your customer communication abilities or you do it all “in-house”, make sure you have a plan to periodically check that you still speak the customer’s language. Your customers and your business will thank you for it.

If need some help in determining how well you are speaking your customer’s language, shoot me an email (or use the comments) and let’s talk.

Do you have a story about when you were the customer and the businessperson didn’t talk your language? Or maybe the other way around? Use the comments and share it with us, please. We’re all ears. 🙂

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