Use the Customers’ Jargon — Not Yours!

A recent experience brings me to this customer service reminder.  When interacting with the customer, use the customer’s jargon not yours.   Here’s a simple true story …

A financial professional switches from selling to financial advisory firms to giving financial advice to consumers — in this case us.  In his previous job, he was speaking to people who already spoke his financial jargon.  It was daily interaction on financial products under the same regulations.  They spoke with the same jargon using spreadsheets and pie charts.  They communicated in the same way.  A perfect fit.

Now, he is advising non-financial industry professionals on their lifetime savings.  The problem: he still uses financial industry jargon and assumes we understand.  He sends us pie charts, spreadsheets, and big thick books to read.  We ask him “How much did those transactions cost us?”  We want a simple $ amount.  He sends us a paragraph with no numbers in it.

The frustration is overwhelming.  We view him as non-customer focused.  He is making life difficult.   Can you envision what is about to happen? 

What do your customers think of you and your service?   Do you use the customers’ jargon or yours?


  1. Speak the language of the customer to build trust and loyalty!
  2. Ask open-ended questions that unearth what they want to achieve.
  3. Listen with their listening-style.
  4. Ask creative follow-up questions.
  5. Use their jargon — not yours!

©2009 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

908.595.1515 (USA)

11 Responses to “Use the Customers’ Jargon — Not Yours!”

  1. Dan Brantley says:

    Interestingly, this is one of the keys to using humor effectively as well.
    Nice post. I like’em short!

  2. Kate Nasser says:

    Kate, Great List (and great site)! I would add a sixth… “read what the client reads” in terms of books, periodicals, trade rags, etc…
    LinkedIn Colleague (Added w/Michael’s permission.)

  3. Kate Nasser says:

    Kate – You so pegged it! Great advice not only for building customer service, but also for community engagement. INSIGHTFUL!! THANKS!
    Marcus Rivas (Added with Marcus’ agreement.)

  4. guy stephens says:

    Great example. I also think you need to add in ‘Don’t assume’. Tell whoever you are speaking/dealing with whether they’re giving you exactly what you want or expected. If they don’t know and you don’t tell them, how will the improve/deliver what it is you want?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Guy,
      If you mean that the clients should speak up and let the service provider know if s/he is giving them what they want — yes. Yet the primary responsibility for delivering great service rests with the service provider. Just today, I read 3 articles on Yahoo about how to treat waitresses better and be a better customer. The focus needs to be on how to *deliver great service to all types of clients. Not how to be a good client.

  5. Kate Nasser says:

    Your article speaks true to what I learned at TD Waterhouse when using financial jargon. =)
    Your Twitter Follower “TweetPhoto”

  6. MW Savant says:

    Brava! I totally agree. When training our staff about client care, I also add the analogy of speaking the client’s language: Once, when managing a resort, I’d learn some key welcoming phrases and questions in a host of languages so that when I saw a name what was clearly Korean, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, et cetera, or saw the addresses on the check-in report, I was always prepared to welcome the guest the minute they arrived.

    Huge how instantly their trust level soared and tension and anxiety dropped.

    Awesome advice Kate. Excellent post! Thank you!

  7. Kate Nasser says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for brushing our brain, in this mechanical life it’s required to have a booster like this
    Suthakharran (Added with his agreement)

  8. You nailed it, Kate. Very well done.

    I teach a course in how to write a bestselling book. In the class, the first thing we do is have our students take a Myers-Briggs test to evaluate their own personality type.

    Then we have them analyze their ideal reader to uncover those personalities. Finally, we have them write to the top 4 personality types they’ve identified as their ultimate customer… really help them get inside those noggins.

    Amazing things happen when you are literally modeling your customer. The whole world changes: emotional connection; languaging; energy; velocity and depth of the engagement.

    Your post perfectly addresses these opportunities for better engagement and dialog.

    To your continued success,
    Mark Alan Effinger
    P.S. If you’re interested, I’d love to have you share more of your creative insights on our forthcoming ThoughtOffice Blog. I like the way you think… and so would many of our readers.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many thanks Mark. I am very excited to hear you are actually teaching it at that level of detail. And yes, I would love to write for your blog. I will email you and let’s get started!

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