Sometimes it’s easy to forget that customers aren’t numbers, they’re people: people with friends they talk to when they’ve been badly treated.

High leakage rate?

A couple of weeks ago we were talking to a business that needs to fix its leaks. They had a high leakage rate on one particular project. We asked what leakage was.

‘That’s the ones who sign up, then cancel the contract straight away. Usually because they’ve agreed to the contract to get the sales staff off their doorstep.’

‘So, these are people that you’ve annoyed so badly that they can’t wait to get rid of you?’

‘Yes.’

‘But you have to stop calling them “leakage”,’ we said. ‘They are people who could have been your customers, but now really don’t like you.’

‘Well yes, but it takes too long to say that in meetings.’

It’s classic jargon. A clever term that has lost its original power.

Using jargon in meetings takes the emotion out of the transaction.

Do you remember when news reports started using the military term ‘collateral damage’? What it really meant was ‘people we killed by accident’. It sounded more as if they’d knocked down a building or two.

Losing customers isn’t as bad as shooting civilians, but disguising what’s really happening in cloudy language takes away the responsibility for human feelings.

Once a company loses touch with the way its customers are feeling, it’s going to lose its customers.

And those customers won’t hold back, they’re going to tell people they know that this company is rubbish.

Imagine you’ve got friends round, you’re just getting started on the pizza. The doorbell rings. Someone wants to sell you something and won’t go away.

Do you think:

A)  Wow, that’s convenient, they’ve come all the way to my house to give up their time and tell me about this special offer. Who cares about pizza and friends?

B)   If they don’t get off my doorstep right now I’ll call the police.

C)   I don’t want to be nasty, but I really don’t want to do this. I’ll sign up and hope that gets rid of them.

It’s not A is it? It’s got to change.

How you make your company more human

To fix the leaks, you’ve got to fix the language, but first you’ve got to fix the intention behind the language. That’s how you make your company more human.

It won’t happen overnight of course. Changing a culture takes quite a bit of doing. But if you start by asking yourself what’s going wrong between your company and your customers, you’re taking the first step.

So what’s going wrong – or right – for you?