Society is becoming more and more consumer orientated and with stiffer competition in all sectors, businesses really need to do what they can to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. However, when looking at strategies to deal with these issues, one area that is often overlooked is how a business communicates with its clients.
I have already given my views in a previous post about how crucial correct grammar can be in business communication but vocabulary is also important. In this regard, plain English is a must. People no longer want correspondence from their professional advisor that is aimed at ‘impressing’ them. Actually, it doesn’t impress people, it just creates distance. Business communication should be about expressing, not impressing by using jargon, cliché and archaic language. It has always amazed me how lawyers speak very differently in formal meetings to how they have expressed themselves in correspondence. Why in correspondence do they write ‘I have attached herewith’ when in conversation they will say, ‘I have here’? My guess is because they know there is no need to talk in such an archaic way. They look silly. So why do it in writing?
I am delighted to see that in the consumer world the need for plain English is being recognised by our lawmakers. The soon to be in force Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Act puts the onus on insurers and their agents to ensure that questions asked of their customers, when taking declarations for an insurance proposal, are ‘clear’ and ‘specific’ and their literature must take into consideration ‘its target market’. I think many would also like to see a move towards much clearer and specific wording in the actual policies that are issued as well. Indeed, is the average ‘target market’ able to understand the policies they are issued with? I suspect not.
The insurance and legal industries are, probably the worst for failing to recognise the need for plain English. There’s no need to hide behind jargon and archaic language, and with ever increasing numbers of customers and clients being people for who English is not their mother tongue, it behoves businesses of all kinds to give more careful thought to the use of English in all their marketing and business literature. Failing to do so will in some cases result in lost business opportunity, and competitiveness – conversely those companies who go the second mile in this regard stand to gain business, improve their reputations and further their competitive advantages.
As businesses become more focused on client retention and satisfaction the manner in which they communicate with their customers will form part of their key strategies for dealing with challenging global marketplaces. People want to be treated with respect and dignity. Communicating with them in language they can easily understand is key to that.