Customer Experience: Using Jargon Requires Huge Leap of Faith

Asking customers to jump through hoops to buy or use our products and services is a risky strategy for super customer experience. Even people who want to buy status want it to be easy for them to obtain and definitely to use.

Using jargon with customers is one way we ask them to jump through hoops. It is hardly easy or enjoyable for them. It has no allure or magnetic pull for repeat business or loyalty.

In fact using jargon requires a huge leap of faith from the customer to trust that we care about them at all. It is a customer experience disaster as it withholds from the customer the two things they need to resolve their issue or to make a purchasing decision — clear answers and care for their needs.

Customer Experience: Using Jargon Requires Customers to Make Huge Leap of Faith Image by:PaulEvans-RG&B

Most everyone agrees that jargon is an obstacle to super customer experience. It’s like broadcasting Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem as you greet a world of potential customers:

    Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
    Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
    All mimsy were ye borogoves;
    And ye mome raths outgrabe.

Yet I witness this jargon blunder everywhere! Two short stories illustrate Jabberwocky of words and purpose.

Story: Ready to Buy, Whoops Good Bye!
My accounting software is very old and hard to run on new computers. I decided to bite the change resistance bullet and buy the popular Quickbooks. Converting to it and setting it up is a bigger challenge than I anticipated. I found a certified local expert in an online directory that emphasized her great teaching ability. I called, ready to buy her services and get this project done.

As she spouted out her accounting version of the Jabberwocky poem, I asked her several times to no avail, “what do you mean?” She was clearly knowledgeable yet not clear to me. Her repeated lapse into jargon made me wonder if she cared about my business success at all. She withheld the two things I needed – care and clarity.

Corrective Step: Try your typical response on a relative or friend whose not a specialist like you. If they don’t understand it, explain it until they do. Then use that approach with customers.

Story: Listening All the Way to Jabberwocky
As I narrowed my search for a contractor to replace the windows in our home, I spoke with one that my neighbor used and highly recommended. He explained the process, the technical terms, and displayed a good commitment to customer service.

Then it happened. When I asked if I could get the windows without “Low E” (a feature that makes them super energy efficient yet gives the windows a greyish hue), he replied, “Well that defeats the whole purpose of replacing the windows.” Oh really, I replied? Is that my purpose?

He look stunned. After I explained my purpose for replacing the windows and for requesting no Low E, he apologized for not listening for my purpose and needs.

Oddly enough, this contractor didn’t speak with Jabberwocky — he listened with it. His assumptions scrambled what he heard and killed the clarity of his response to me. By the way, he asked me to ping him if he slipped into listening Jabberwocky again. (Nice touch!)

Corrective Step: Clarify assumptions to deliver a super customer experience.

Our assumptions, jargon, and scripted approach widen the gap between us and the customers. If the gap is great, the customers don’t have the trust needed to work with us or buy from us.

As we ask for this leap of faith through our jargon, the customer may well leap to another company with the hope of finding someone who connects, cares, and delivers.

Close the gap with clarity and care. Otherwise, the sequel to today’s bad customer experience becomes the prequel to tomorrow’s lost sale.

What is your team’s Jabberwocky? Acronyms? Abbreviations? New meanings to old words? How will you all fix it?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Post:
Customer Experience: Harmony Builds Trust

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer experience. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

11 Responses to “Customer Experience: Using Jargon Requires Huge Leap of Faith”

  1. Lisa Ford says:

    Love your insights. Customers want genuine and personal connections. Managers must hire, train and empower in new ways to allow employees to provide real help.

  2. Melissa Kovacevic says:

    Great post, Kate! Unfortunately, some tech support reps are very knowledgeable, but as in your first example, make things too complex or off-putting for callers due to the technical jargon used. Financial and insurance businesses also use industry jargon at times in their marketing and service areas.

    Our customers need to feel valued and not made to feel “stupid” if they don’t understand our lingo. The best way to do this is to listen to their word choices and observations about the issue they are calling about. Are they highly technical themselves or not? Ask questions to find out how, what and why before jumping in with jargon or assumptions about their needs.

  3. Khalid says:

    Hi Kate,

    I clearly experience this now in Austria! Luckly in big shops people speak English but in smaller shops it is really hard to communicate as they don’t speak English! As if they don’t count me as a customer in their list!

    Thanks for your great posts as usual 🙂


  4. Kimb Manson says:

    I am lucky enough that I myself do not understand most of the terminology and gibberish used in my field, I just say it as it is, wonderful post Kate!

  5. Shep Hyken says:

    Kate, great article. It’s simple: Don’t use company or industry jargon when talking to a customer. If they don’t get it, they may not ask for clarification because feel too uncomfortable to ask. That’s a big “turn-off.” There are lots of ways to turn-off a customer. Using jargon is just one, but so easy to avoid.

  6. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.
    I think Melissa and Shep have perhaps already made the key points. Jargon is an internal language; great when speaking with co-workers and fellow experts, but likely to confuse or mislead many of your customers. As Shep points out, you may switch off your customer or make them feel too embarrassed to ask for clarification – they will likely go elsewhere to find someone who “talks their language”.
    There are of course exceptions, and some customers are subject/product savvy, but it must be the customer that makes the decision to talk industry jargon, if and when they are comfortable with it.
    As Melissa reminds us, it is the basic skill of listening to the customer that is the key to the solution. By listening to the customer you are quickly able to pick up clues as to their current level of knowledge and expertise, enabling you to talk their language, not simply default to yours.
    Great post, as always Kate. Thanks for sharing.

  7. “Where is my order. I was suppose to receive it today but it hasn’t arrived.”
    “Well sir, I’ve checked Isis and WMS is showing P.Phelps in the signature capture portal. Are you sure you didn’t receive it?”

    Kate, you’ve touched on one of my biggest pet peeves in customer experience. When internal-speak and industry jargon creeps out into the customer’s space. Jargon can be very efficient and expeditious within internal operations. The shortcuts and abbreviations make quick work of internal discussions and communications. But there should be a barrier that keeps internal-speak from getting to the customer. That barrier is education.

    The solution is simple. However, most businesses forget to train their staff on internal lingo vs. what the customer knows. In some cases, it may also be done to try to impress the customer about “what I know.” Guess what, the customer doesn’t care what you know. The customer cares about whether you can help him/her or solve the problem. It’s all about the ability to put oneself in the customer’s shoes.

    “I understand your concern about not having received your order. I’ve check our systems and I’m showing that a Paula Phelps signed for your package at 11:32 this morning at your address. Is it possible to check with Paula to see if she has your package?”

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Oh Bill .. your story is a classic. Love the truth that rings out of it and I must admit the chuckle I am having at their idiocy in assuming an outsider would understand internal shorthand.

      Thanks much for sharing it here!

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