According to a survey conducted by cloud computing company Six Degrees Group, business professionals as using more jargon than bankers, lawyers and politicians combined, and many do not understand the jargon they regularly use: 22% believed Platform as a Service (PaaS) was a new philosophy in railway management, and 16% thought Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a new road project.
Jargon can be difficult, especially to customers. Campaigns like the Plain English Campaign aim to encourage clear communication between business and customers, but more can be done by some businesses themselves to improve not only relationships with customers, but the likelihood of making a sale.
Marie Clair from the Plain English recently explained to Marketing Donut:
“There is no problem in using it [jargon] internally as long as explanations are consistent, but beware of those who don’t admit they have no idea what you are saying.”
“Externally, with customers, it can become dangerous if terms are unfamiliar and need explanation.”
Clair’s opinion may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies overestimate how much their customers know about the jargon regularly used. A 2013 survey by broadband choices found that 46% of people don’t understand language used to describe broadband packages. The survey showed that almost 60% of Brits though that 16mb referred to what they were allowed to download and not the speed at which they downloaded. If customers can misunderstand terms that are used as commonly as broadband speeds, it’s easy to see how terms like the cloud can be confusing, let alone more complicated concepts described with phrases like IaaS and PaaS.
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So what should businesses do?
It’s difficult to give one definitive answer beyond “try to make things more simple” as every business is different. Trying to make things as every-man as possible is a good start though. If it’s possible, try consulting with some small groups before marketing something to the general public. This way you’ll get an understanding of what people think before rolling things out.
Ultimately, some jargon cannot be avoided. Richard Branson once said:
“Of course, even if you’re straightforward, others may not be. Business slang and technical terms are nearly impossible to avoid in industries like finance and IT. So if you frequently find yourself confused by your colleagues’ corporate speak, utilize the dozens of guides on the Internet to figure out what they actually mean when they say things like, “We need to go after the low-hanging fruit,” or “Let’s circle the wagons.” Or, simply ask your co-workers to clarify”.
At the end of the day, you can only try your best, and try to explain common industry jargon to your customers.
One such example to follow is that being set by Cloud Service Provider Six Degrees Group. The cloud can often be difficult for customers to understand, so 6DG have taken it upon themselves to create a Jargon Buster which explains the common acronyms and abbreviations used in the industry. This sort of customer focused guide is a great example of how those in the know can help those that aren’t so much.