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Breaking Down Technical Talk for Your Customers

  
  
  
  

Communication DRWhat is one thing that frustrates a customer faster than nearly anything else? When a customer service representative uses language the customer doesn’t understand to answer a question or respond to a problem.

It can be difficult to avoid the use of technical jargon completely, since nearly any industry usually has its own vocabulary to describe products, services and functions. However, that vocabulary is likely to sound foreign to anyone outside the industry – including the customer.

If you want to provide the best possible customer service, it is important to navigate out of the maze of technical jargon to find language your customers can easily understand.

What Constitutes Technical Jargon?

In some cases, identification of technical jargon can be a challenge in itself. When your employees use the vocabulary day in and day out, it becomes a regular part of their daily language. Some clues that the words you are using fall into the jargon category include:

• Acronyms that are industry specific
• Phrases that contain all nouns
• Phrases that end in words like “system” or “process”
• Slang that is not used outside your industry

Some managers find it helpful to take some time during a staff meeting or team-building activity to brainstorm as many technical words or phrases as their employees can think of. Once the technical jargon is listed, take some time to find everyday words or phrases that say the same thing.

Pay Attention to Your Customer

To ensure your language matches your customer’s ability to understand, listen to the words your customer uses before choosing your own vocabulary in response. For example, if your customer uses what you would consider technical jargon (and uses it correctly), you may use those words or phrases in your response. If not, look for alternative words to use to describe the product, problem or solution.

It is also helpful to watch a customer’s face as you are offering an explanation. If he looks confused or frustrated, you may need to rephrase your response. It can also be helpful to forgo email responses in favor of phone or face-to-face contact when explaining complex ideas, since this allows more opportunities for your customer to ask for clarification on technical terms.

Practice Makes Perfect

When employees begin doing away with technical jargon, it can be difficult to find alternative words and phrases to use. A staff meeting of role play can help employees practice the art of explaining products or answering questions without using technical jargon. It can also be helpful to try out those explanations on someone who is not familiar with industry techno-speak to discover what customers may not understand.

Avoid Talking Down to the Client

Customer service reps need to understand the difference between talking to a customer and talking down to a customer. Eliminating technical language simply means replacing industry-specific language with words and phrases used by the general population. If your customer service rep becomes condescending, your customer is almost sure to become irate.

Technical jargon has its place in any business, but not in the area of customer service. Customers deserve responses that they can understand, without techno-babble that makes them feel unintelligent and insignificant.

- Meredith Estep

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