Stop the Industry Speak

Written by: Alan Rodway - Your Coach Online

Using industry speak is a real trap for a business for two reasons. It can cause it to lose the feel of what it is really about and, worse, it can negatively affect the connection with the customer. Both of these downsides can occur without realizing it’s happening.

To really appreciate the messages in this article it will be necessary to take a step back and objectively consider its contents, by specifying the industry speak examples your business is actually using.

Industry speak is when a business uses jargon, abbreviations, terminology, acronyms, phrases or any language that people within the business recognize and use regularly but that:

  • may not be used commonly by customers,
  • may not be understood by customers,
  • can divert internal thinking from the core purpose(s) of the business.

Industry speak is used internally because It’s time efficient, precise and has been part of people’s training. Nothing wrong with any of that, of course. But when it leads to confusion for a customer or a disconnect to the fundamental purposes of the business (for internal people and/or the customer) then that’s seriously ineffective.

Using industry speak can actually cause the customer to lose sight of his/her fundamental purpose with the business, as bizarre as that may seem. For example, a customer building a home ends up in conversations about ‘variations’, ‘specs’, ‘foundation’, ‘soil tests’, ‘plans’, ‘interiors’ and ‘defects’ with their builder…….. And ‘LVR’s’, ‘serviceability’, ‘credit ratings’ and ‘basis points’ with their lender. All such conversations, apart from being a potential nightmare for the customer, can divert them from their original (most compelling) feeling of ‘building their home’ into feeling they are part of a (less than enjoyable) project. Whenever this happens it will make everything more difficult for the business and the customer because of the confusion and fundamental diversion of purpose.

Whether the customer understands the industry speak or not is irrelevant; it’s just worse if they don’t. Understanding the language being used can still serve to divert and weaken the feeling/commitment the customer had at the beginning.

A customer goes to a hairdresser’s to look good, not to receive a lesson in ‘highlights’, ‘regrowth’, ‘graduation’, ‘texture’ or ‘layers’. People go to an accountant to make sure our money is well looked after and our lifestyle is maximized, not to be hear about ‘provisional tax’, ‘deductibility’, ‘tax schedules’, ‘liquidity’ nor ‘depreciation’. We go to a financial planner for our current and future lifestyle desires, not to hear about ‘risk profiles’, ‘financial needs analysis’, ‘statements of advice’, ‘underlying assets’, ‘powers of attorney’, ‘margins’, ‘portfolios’ nor ‘estate planning’. People go to doctors to feel better, not to walk out confused by technical terms and explanations. It’s even worse if using jargon makes a customer feel like ‘a number’.

Whatever your industry and business, you would do yourself an enormous favour to list the industry speak phrases, etc. being used internally and/or externally. Then ask if they are diverting attention from what the customer has at his/her core. It will only be from creating this list that you will be able to determine if it’s happening and then be able to re orientate people internally if it is. Businesses are there to engage customers in their fundamental purposes, not to divert their thoughts and feelings through language.

Sometimes internal people can feel ‘impressive’ by using industry speak; that’s just self indulgent and immature. The highest level of professional life is not to impress through words but through connection to purpose.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is at the core of all successful business. Industry speak will disconnect a business from its ‘why’.

Using industry speak internally is practical but avoid the trap of extending it outwards when it will blur purpose, understanding and connection. Convert the jargon to what the customer uses, can relate to, wants and will react to with purpose.

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