Cut the technobabble to connect with your customers

Last week, my partner’s computer died. At least, we thought it had. It switched itself off suddenly and wouldn’t turn on again. It had been on the blink for a while, so we feared the worst.

We thought he’d probably need a new one, but we weren’t sure. Could we save the old one? If not, could we retrieve the data? We had a lot of questions that Google couldn’t help us with.

We needed to ask a geek.

We looked for someone who could explain things simply

We went to Geeks on Wheels because their website said they ‘explain things without using technobabble’.

The ‘geek’ who served us sat down with us and talked through all our options. He used simple, straightforward language. A couple of times we asked him to simplify things even further, and he was happy to do so.

He never rolled his eyes or smiled snidely at our lack of techno-savvy. He didn’t try to impress us with his depth of knowledge. He didn’t rush us. And he didn’t use our lack of expertise to sell us anything we didn’t need. He laid out the options as simply as possible, and helped us choose the one that suited us best.

In short, he treated us with respect.

The right tone makes for loyal customers

Geeks on Wheels clearly understand what plain English is all about. It’s not just about conveying meaning. It’s not just about getting rid of jargon. Plain English is about connection. About creating an atmosphere that your audience feels comfortable in. Only then can you tell them what you need them to know.

You need to work hard at getting the tone right. You need to think about things from someone else’s point of view, talk to them honestly, and treat them as you’d like to be treated.

When you do this well, you stand out from all the others who get it so wrong.

Happily ever after

For us, Geeks on Wheels’ approach really worked. We ended up with a rebuilt computer, not a new one, which saved us a couple of thousand dollars. And we walked out of their HQ ready to recommend their service to our friends.

Good on you, Geeks on Wheels. You’re simultaneously embracing and busting the geek stereotype, and setting a standard that others should  aim for.

Find out more about Geeks on Wheels

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6 responses to “Cut the technobabble to connect with your customers”

  1. James Park says:

    I think you were a little wrong there about “treating them as you would like to be treated.” This is about treating them how THEY like to be treated. I might like technobabble so I AM treating you how I like to be treated! By the way I agree with your intent here and communication in this context is challenging when the concepts can be pretty abstract and often defined in industry specific technobabble (as they often are) in the first place – so need some reinterpretation anyway.

    • eleanor meecham says:

      Fair point James! Of course some people actually love technobabble and enjoy the chance to babble about tech with others who understand. I see this a lot in the mountain biking world.

      I guess the trick is to work out what level your customer is on and then use language that’s appropriate for them. So you wouldn’t want to talk down to someone who understands all the industry-specific terms, but you also wouldn’t want to bamboozle a complete novice.

      It really is a challenge getting it right. Anyone who can translate their specialist knowledge into terms suitable for anyone has a very precious skill.

  2. Pip says:

    I agree, Geeks on Wheels are refreshingly respectful of mere mortals. Perhaps you should forward your blog to the guys at Spark on Willis Street. I got the whole eye-rolling, how could you be sooooooooo duuumb treatment there recently. Very frustrating.

    • eleanor meecham says:

      Thanks Pip.

      Exasperation with customers who aren’t tech-savvy seems to be quite commonplace. But customer feedback is powerful. Use it for good!

  3. Andrew says:

    I went to a school event last night, and noticed again how teachers seem to be unable to explain what they are doing without resorting to technobabble. The Year 8 kids had researched an interesting topic and, in teams, made a display about it. This was described by the teacher as ‘contextualising information received from multiple perspectives’ and ‘a collobarative learning opportunity’. This followed on from the school report we received which I simply could not understand due to all the education jargon – I later heard that the school was particularly proud of the way they had used simple language in these reports. Has anyone else noticed this?

    • eleanor meecham says:

      I’ve certainly noticed this as our son has gone through primary school. I think that certain teachers are great at talking in a straightforward way, but there does seem to be a lot of jargon to do with the curriculum.

      As well as starting them early on computers and personal devices, they’re getting them started early on the technobabble too!

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