How many lamps are there?
Have you wasted time with tech support, listening to a detailed response to a question you never asked?
Now turn that around.
Have you wasted time on customer service, giving a detailed answer to a customer’s question, only to receive in reply some variation of, “No, I meant my other left”?
Some fields have specialized, technical language that makes it possible for practitioners of the dark arts to communicate effectively with each other – but the jargon can leave the rest of us out in the cold. Other areas use everyday language, but the results are so imprecise that it takes repeated, detailed questioning to get a useful response.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your customer support was right down the middle – precise enough to be immediately actionable but jargon free enough to be instantly understandable?
That may be an impossible dream, but you can inch closer to that goal through practice. Here are five simple steps to get you started
1. Make a list of frequently asked questions
This will help you narrow down the areas where you are not communicating effectively with your clients.
If one out of every five customers has to ask if you’ll ship two items in the same box at a reduced price, “Hey stupid, that’s in the Terms!” is not the correct response. Especially if the question is answered in your shipping terms.
Is your use of jargon (“We gladly combine shipping”) instead of plain English (“We ship multiple items at a reduced rate”) confusing new customers? Should you reword your policy or description?
2. Have someone unfamiliar with your service read your copy and pay close attention to what they say.
It doesn’t matter if the nuclear scientist on the corner knows that you can’t sell Plutonium on eBay. Most watch buyers are neither physicists nor experts on eBay’s policies. If you are trying to sell me a watch with Mickey Mouse’s dog on the watch face, do not say it is powered by Plutonium, no matter how hard you laugh at your own joke.
Write clearly and accurately. Write to be understood, not to be admired.
3. Switch roles.
If you are selling, read everything you write – description, terms of sale, shipping and handling clauses, everything – as though you are the world’s dumbest customer.
You don’t know what FOB means. You don’t know what USPS means. You don’t know what PayPal is and you don’t know how to find out.
All you know is you want to buy that beautiful suede jacket for $250.00 and you have never bought anything on line before.
That is not a crime. That is a golden opportunity.
If you can ease a customer’s worries and make shopping with you a pleasant and simple transaction, you will create repeat business and customer loyalty.
4. If you can state something in everyday English, do it.
Even if you are selling specialized items, try to describe them in common terms. Sometimes it will be important to use a technical description (for instance, you cannot sell a camera lens without mentioning focal length). But go on to define the term for the average shopper.
Maybe I want to buy a super-expensive camera lens as a gift. You can lose the sale by saying “150 mm, EOS DSLR, bayonet” or you can make the sale by saying, “Great 150 mm tele-photo lens for Canon EOS digital SLR, with standard bayonet mount.”
5. Put all the words in your head on the paper.
Don’t expect anyone to read your mind.
If you want the buyer to do something, say so. “Anyone should have known that” is not a sales policy.
Written communication can be confusing and frustrating, but you can take the sting out of it by consciously using simple sentences with common words. If you want to know whether your answers are helping or further confusing your customers, just turn the situation around. Read the answer, then ask yourself, “What is the question?”
Photo by kevindooley Released under Creative Commons License