Learning The Language of Your Customers and Coworkers

Welcome to the fifth blog of my 30-day blogging project. Warning! All of the blogs for this project will be posted unedited, unfiltered.

Like any relationship, your employment can have a language in and of itself. Every company can come with a completely different set of acronyms and tonality. There are even particular phrases and words that are unique to that company. So, I started wondering, how has my employment, both past and present changed they way I speak? Just like my skill set, has my vernacular changed over the years because of my employment?

Flashback time…. waynes-world_o_GIFSoup.com_

Mission Capable

A few years ago, I worked for an outdoor apparel design company where 80% of our customers were military, either veterans or current. And, 100% of our customers were avid outdoor enthusiasts. My vernacular changed dramatically.  Everything was very serious, so serious, and very male in tone. For example, I don’t think I ever used the word “love” on any of our communications. (Yeah, like most men use the word love to describe anything, never-the-less an eight-inch titanium folder with Teflon coated bearings.) Trying to write for an avid outdoor survival extremist took some getting used to, that’s for sure. My language became very mission capable and masculine, so much so that many of  our customers were surprised once they learned I was female. During my time at this company, my editorial development taught me to reach your customer, you need to put yourself in their shoes and talk as they do.

urban_dictionary_smmagUnderstanding the Language of Teenagers

I knew thought that UrbanDictionary would become my best friend, but while working for an app company we became besties. The app was a mobile-first company — everything we did was on mobile, for mobile, by mobile. Most of our customers were teenagers. I learned how to communicate with them not only on social networks, but in-app through our service, ads, and customer service. Not only did my writing style have to change, but my search inquiries also had to change. I mean it’s kinda hard to listen to the conversations around your company if you don’t understand the language of your customer. After a few months, my personal vocabulary changed so much that my favorite word became “Awesome”. Like, I know, how awesome is that? If I learned one thing here, it was to fully listen to your customer, you need to understand their language and all of its idioms.

The Goog — the Land, the Myth, The Legend

The internal language of Google changed my vocabulary more than the language of our product’s customer base. After all, we had a HUGE customer base. The Goog has a language all of its own. With a company the size of a small country, how could it not? Like most tech companies, all of our beta products had their own secret names. The names were all very light-hearted, fun and still purpose-built, hence the company culture. Plus, the Goog has its own internal terminology to describe groups of people. For example, I was a Tattogoogler since I’m heavily tattooed. Also, we never called it Google. It was The Goog, not to be mistaken for the Borg. It tlook me a while to learn all the internal dialogue. But once I did, I guess I could hold an entire conversation just using the company’s internal language. How 007.

urlAcronyms — The New ABCs

Today, I work for a B2B tech company that helps business manage their expenses, travel and invoicing through automated solutions. My biggest learning curve here was learning all the internal acronyms. Going from mainly B2C companies to B2C was challenging enough, but add our internal company dialogue, and I learning another language altogether. The most difficult part of the language for me is that they way our company talks internally is quite different than the way our end user speaks. I deal with small and medium sized businesses. Yes, we all talk about ROI and productivity, but in different ways. This has shown me that no matter how you talk about solutions internally, it won’t matter if you can’t speak the language of the consumer.

So, what has this all taught me?

Well, the three takeaways for me are:

  1. The ONLY way to reach your customer is to learn their language and culture.
  2. Internal company language is quite different than external. Never the two shall meet.
  3. Your experiences change not only your skill level but your vocabulary.

There’s more than one language at your job. Understanding the value of the language of your co-workers and customers, even though they can be different, can help in your communications, both past, present and future.

I’d love to hear how your job, past or present, has changed your vocabulary. Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below.