My First Rant of 2013 – It’s SEMANTIC

It’s been a while since I’ve given you a good rant, huh? Oh wait, last week’s blog on resolutions might qualify to some as a rant. OK, so maybe this is my SECOND rant of 2013. But I digress.

I pay a lot of attention to language. It may seem nit-picky to some, but language affords us choices in what we say and how we say it. I have an extensive retail background, and the training I received always focused on asking open-ended questions. You don’t greet a customer by asking, “Can I help you?” What’s the easy answer? “Nope. I’m just looking.” That is almost never true, but is an easy out for the customer and gets you off his/her back.

You will get a lot further and have a much better result if you ask, “What are you shopping for?” Or “What can I help you find today?” And of course, my favorite, “What else?”

At the doctor’s office the other day, an attendant came out into the waiting room and said to me, “We are just waiting for a room so it will likely be another five minutes. Is that OK?” I HATE that ending to a statement of perceived bad news, because what is my option to respond? “No. It’s NOT OK?”

I know there is no room. I know that if they had a room I would be in it, and even if there were a room, I would probably just be waiting in that room—with my impatient toddler, by the way—for an even longer period of time. So just do me a favor, folks. Drop the,“Is that OK?”—UNLESS there is an alternative or some sort of action to be taken if the customer says “No. It is not OK”

A better approach would be to deliver the bad news with:

  1. an apology;
  2. an offer of something—water, coffee, a magazine, SOMETHING to make the pain go away; or
  3. a REALISTIC timeframe of when the situation will be resolved, with details and an explanation of why the delay/problem is happening in the first place.

We are in a service industry, like it or not. Just like a restaurant, a retail establishment, or a medical office, customers have expectations as to how the transactions and experiences will go. They expect proofs and jobs to be delivered on time and correctly. And they HOPE that problems will be solved with speed and grace. So, if you have a customer waiting for a press OK, or a job delivery for that matter, make sure you use clear and honest language that does not allow for ambiguity.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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