I went into a UPS Store the other day to mail a suit to my son at college. The suit was folded neatly inside a nylon garment bag. My mission was to put the entire thing into a more secure box, or padded envelope, and get it to him by Thursday.
I didn't know what drop-off-service is, so I said, "I don't know... I'd just like to mail this suit."
He responded, "Well, we can do that with drop-off-service. Is it ready to go?"
I said, "Not really - I'd like to send it in box." He said, "Well, do you have a box?"
"No, I don't."
"Well, you have to have a box for drop off service."
The conversation was going nowhere, and I was growing frustrated. I wanted to say to him, "Look, I just want to ship this damn suit. Can you do that?"
From my perspective, the man behind the counter made two mistakes:
- He assumed that my package was fully boxed and addressed, and ready to go when in fact, it was not.
- He asked me a question using his language, not mine.
In assuming my package was ready for shipment, he was anticipating my needs. This is not always a bad thing, if you anticipate correctly. Some businesses - Ritz-Carlton in particular - have grown their brand in part by anticipating their customers' unstated needs.
The second mistake was the bigger cause of my negative experience: In using his language to ask me question, he was being internally processes-focused when he should have been externally customer-focused. "Drop-off service" is a term that's apparently used by the UPS employees, but not necessarily understood by the customers they serve. Using a "foreign language" on your customers causes confusion and frustration, and sets the stage for a negative customer experience.
Always, always speak to customers in language that the customer will understand. That means avoid using industry jargon; avoid using the terminology that's used in company meetings. Always speak to your customers in plain English. Your customers will appreciate you for that, and find you much easier to do business with. And when a customer finds a company be easy to do business with, they tend to do business with them more often.
In hindsight, the many behind the UPS counter should have used the tried and true "How can I help you?" I would have simply told him, and he would have simply delivered it. I'd then have left the store thinking, "Wow, that was easy!" But I didn't.
When speaking to a customer, the simplest language is often the best language. Especially when it's the customer's language. For some more good advice on customer-centric language, check out this short video: