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Why jargon is the silent killer of customer experience

Steven Carr  |  December 11, 2019

Let’s begin with the low hanging fruit. (Kidding, even typing out the phrase “low hanging fruit” makes me cringe.) And it’s only one of the countless phrases we may hear on a day-to-day basis in the office. Business jargon, to say the least, is quite confusing. Yet, it remains a critical part of business culture. It creates a sense of belonging that only a secret language known to some can do. However, while jargon can be uniting, it can also be quite polarizing.

Of course, every industry or profession has its jargon—the specialized, often abbreviated way of writing and talking. And while it can be useful for a server to refer to a table of four as a “four-top” or a police officer acknowledging their understanding by stating “10-4,” speaking like this out of the appropriate context can be damaging for building relationships, and completely ruin the customer experience.

Why jargon ruins the customer experience

When striving to build meaningful relationships, and stellar customer experiences, it’s important to avoid jargon for three reasons:

1. Jargon can impair clarity

While jargon can be effective for conciseness, sometimes the more succinct response is not the clearest. When consulting with a client who’s not savvy with marketing, for example, you might say that you’ll take an “integrated, multichannel approach for converting MQLs to SQLs.” This may be what you’re planning to do, but the statement is riddled with terms and acronyms that are uncommon to people outside of the industry. Thus creating more confusion than is necessary.

2. Jargon can be isolating 

Have you ever felt like you’re in the out crowd? Maybe when you’re in a group of people talking about sports, politics, or some other topic that seemingly has more unfamiliar language than words you recognize? Remember how you may have felt when you were part of the out crowd, because when the out crowd consists of your customers (or potential customers), it’s not a good idea to speak in a language that means nothing to them.

3. Jargon can be condescending

When using jargon with customers, these unfamiliar words and phrases can mislead them into believing that they’re being talked down to or purposefully confused. Perhaps you spent years of your life studying the stock market, and you’re proud of the knowledge you’ve picked up along the way. Instead of flexing your vocabulary of insider knowledge, it’s more effective to prove you’re on the side of your customers by showing them that you can explain what you know in terms that make sense to them.

Avoiding jargon to build better customer experiences

Avoiding jargon entirely can be difficult, especially when the language you use every day becomes so familiar to you. When it comes to choosing your words, though, you can never put too much effort into communicating with your customers in a way that makes sense to them.

One quick and easy way you can ensure your writing is clear and easy to understand is through the Hemingway App—a tool designed to help you identify words, sentences, and phrases that may be complicated to your readers. You can also test your content, copy, and messaging with powerful insight tools that provide you fast feedback with your target audience.

Ultimately, avoiding jargon not only shows customers that you care but helps you build lasting relationships built on clear communication.

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About the author:

Steven is a Content Marketing Manager at UserTesting. When he’s not inserting oxford commas where they belong, you can find him shooting pool at a local dive or laughing at his own jokes.