Recently I went to my local market in search of Hanukkah candy for a holiday party. It wasn’t in the candy aisle, so I asked for help.
“Check where we keep the holiday foods,” I was told. It wasn’t there, either. So I asked again. “It’s probably where we keep the ethnic foods.” No luck, so I decided to go elsewhere. As I was heading out the door, a checkout employee yelled after me, “Wait, I found the candy you’re looking for, follow me.”
And there they were. Boxes of chocolate Hanukkah gelt (money) — in the middle of the meat aisle.
It makes perfect sense. That is, if you want to send your customers on a scavenger hunt.
How easy do you make things for your own customers, not just at the holidays, but year round? Do they struggle to understand how you can help them? Is your website tough to navigate? Do they sometimes need a dictionary to interpret your emails?
I received an email from an agency asking us to compete for their business. They said the quote should include a certain acronym that I didn’t understand and that acronym should be accompanied by a “compliant after action report.” In an effort to make sure we were even qualified to bid, I emailed the contact person explaining we were communications pros and asked if that was what he was looking for. His response was more confusing than his initial email. To paraphrase, he said, “We are looking for a (more acronyms) compliant (another acronym) to build a cohesive cadre.” He then explained that he wanted us to assist with (another acronym) through the use of subject matter experts and additional staff-extended operations under the direction of yet another acronym. At this point, I decided that what they should request from us is guidance in how to communicate clearly.
It’s up to you to make sure your audiences understand how you can solve their problems. That means clear, concise communication. If you send a long-winded email, they may have to read it several times to understand it. That takes up their time which you are inadvertently not respecting. Limit your email to a few points. The same goes for voicemail.
While most of us don’t purposely set out to confuse our listeners, we can inadvertently assume they know more than they know or that they think like us. For example, when online with a computer help desk recently, I asked the technician what he thought the problem was. He replied that the crawler wasn’t working. What? He said, “You know, the web robots.” What he meant was that there was something wrong with a program that allows search engines to find you. He was speaking tech talk, but his talk was not my talk.
Speaking the language as we’ve heard it phrased doesn’t mean peppering your conversations with workplace jargon or technical terms you think someone should understand. It means telling them what they need to know in words that help them comprehend the problem and appreciate how you will fix it.
Hiding the Hanukkah candy in the meat aisle is a little bit like tech talk. It might make perfect sense to the stock person who is intimately familiar with the store but never shops there.
The same goes for your company. Most people don’t want to wade through oceans of information and choices. They want to know how you will solve their problems and make things easier for them. When we minimize and simplify, the candy is much sweeter to buy.