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What does it mean to understand your customer’s language?

We aren’t talking about getting a grip on your customer’s native tongue and communicating in it with them (although this could appeal to their emotional and cultural sensitivities). We’re referring to your ability to tell such things as their mood and personality, perhaps even demographic group from what they say, and decipher whether what they say reveals their perceptions of your services.

If you’re a businessperson, you’ll very likely know how important communication is in the enterprise building process. Words are extremely important: they’re crucial for running an organization, marketing your products and staying in touch with clients. While these things are crucial, it’s also vital that the communication coming from your client’s end isn’t just read or listened to. It has to be understood, in order to be acted upon the right way.   

Understanding your customer’s ‘lingo’ (as some would prefer to call it) also helps you to interact with them in a way they can relate to, using an approach that connects with them on a deeper level than regular marketing and customer service interactions make possible. 

The point we’re making here is that you should take what your product’s buyers seriously. Don’t always assume you know what their concerns are. Perhaps you’re experienced enough to decide what they would want with very little clarification on their part. But no ‘sales expert’ gets ‘too good’ at their work to not have use of customer feedback. We can’t read their minds; we might as well listen to them, and try to grasp what they actually mean when they speak or write to us.

What is there to Understand?

You might wonder whether having a fluent, agreeable and apparently mutually understood interaction with clients would be difficult. Don’t you already get what they’re saying first time? What else do you need to know?

It isn’t exactly clear that many businesses either understand or properly respond to their client’s communication. You find this to be true in the sort of responses or lack of response people get from their vendors when they make complaints. It may even be said that many complaints would not need to be made to service providers if the customers were being listened to and understood in the first place.

Unfortunately, a lot of enterprises are barely paying attention to their clients. This is a recipe for disaster. When you don’t care to know what your buyers or wider market want from you, you’ll be sending a silent message to the effect that you don’t care about them. The consequence is that they’ll move on to someone who does.

But even when you listen, you have to be sure to know what they mean by what they’ve said, and what clues you might pick up from the way they shared their opinions and thoughts with you  (where this obtains or is possible).

Let’s use a practical example here. Sometimes clients might have a problem with your offerings which prompts them to speak about replacing you on their suppliers’ list with a different vendor who sells the same product.  You should be able to tell whether they’ve really given up on your brand, or if they just want to shake you up to fix your product. Of course, the fact that they tell you they’ll be leaving is almost certainly a sign that they’re eager to give you another try. They would be less likely to reveal their wish to pitch their tent elsewhere, if they had already totally abandoned your business.

How Do You Understand Your Customer’s Language?

Because there’s such a thing as differing communication styles, businesspeople ought to learn to distinguish between them and thread properly between them. It all depends on what styles their typical customers use. We’re alluding to the fact that you can indeed tell a lot about people from the way they to interact with you.

Here are a few steps you can take to understand your customers better:

1. Know How They Want to Talk

 Again, one of the first steps you’ll have to take on the journey to understanding your customer’s ‘language’ is to know the best ways to communicate with them, and to use those means appropriately. It’s really when you get through to them in their preferred zones that you’ll be able to begin a conversation with them.

2. Understand the Segments they Fit Into

As we suggested earlier, your client’s manner and means of communicating might hold big clues about what demographic and psychographic segments they could be placed in. And if you’re targeting particular segments with your products and services, it would be great to figure out how they present themselves and put their points across.

3. Ask for their Opinions

 There are many ways to do this, from simple questions asked verbally in a discussion, to online surveys. Take your customer’s feedback seriously and tackle them with care and focus. Over time, you’ll build an understanding of what they want and how they would describe it.

4. Spend Time at their Favourite Spots

What better way to acquaint yourself with the ways of your ideal customer than to hang out with them (or people like them) where they like to converge. This applies as much to conferences and networking sessions as it does to restaurants and online chat forums. As you mingle with them, you’ll improve your understanding of their motivating concerns, and maybe even learn a few way-making slangs.

5. Just Listen

In the end, this is what it all boils down to. Don’t let their words fly over your head. It’ll do your business no good. Listen to what they have to say, and ask for clarifications if you don’t fully get what they’ve said.

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This article was first published on 29th January 2019


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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