An easy way to connect with your customers: speak their language

Recently I wrote a post asking why it is that Experts do such a poor job of relating to the ordinary person: After This Experience I Am Puzzled: Why?

Some weeks ago I was given a cheque and this week I finally made it to the high street.  As I was waiting to put this cheque into my account I witnessed an interesting spectacle.  A cashier in his early twenties was serving an older man in his sixties and it was clear that they were not connecting.  As I listened to the conversation I noticed something interesting:  the cashier was talking in the language of banking whereas the old man was talking every day language and because of this the cashier was failing to connect with this customer.  An example: the cashier talked about funds and the transfer of funds; the old man spoke about money and asked about how he could get his hands on his money.

It hit me that a very simple way that companies can better connect with their customers is to talk the language of their customers.  No need to get in McKinsey to formulate a strategy.  No need to pay Oracle a fortune to buy their CRM suite.  No need to pay Accenture to redesign processes and implement the Oracle suite and so forth.  Just change the language you speak to match the language that your customers speak.

Language matters.  When you speak my language you acknowledge me, you respect me, you validate me, you make me feel good about myself.  In turn I cannot help but feel good about you and thus want to do the right thing by you – the law of reciprocity.  I have had the good fortune to live in a number of cultures and travel to many countries and the one thing that I have noticed is that I have received much better treatment when I have made the attempt to speak the local language!  And when I have made the effort to learn about and embody the local culture.

This lesson applies to all organisations:  you can enter into the world of your customer and form closer ties with your customer simply by speaking her language.  Yes her language – Professor Moira Clarke of Henley Business School told us today that some 85% of purchases are made by women.

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