Your Business In Layman's Terms
Because we probably aren't experts on everything, in many customer service scenarios we are put in the position of the layman, needing some specialized information explained... to understand the medical procedure, the amount of labor required, the exact specifications. It is on the part of the professional to simplify - without dumbing down - the technical information in order to "make the sale".
The term layman has come to mean “a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not expert in some field.” It also has a somewhat less commonly known meaning of “a person who is not a member of the clergy”, which is its original definition. Layman is derived from the words “lay” (from the Old French “lai”, meaning “secular”) and “man”, hence the “non-cleric” meaning.
To put something in layman's terms is to describe a complex or technical statement using words and terms that someone not specialized in a specific field can understand.
My work is technically oriented, and not everyone I communicate with shares my knowledge, experience, understanding, or vocabulary. My current role is leader of the product support team for a transmission remanufacturer, dealing heavily in technical diagnostic work. My previous careers in contracting and insurance had similar challenges. To both internal customers (the people in other departments in your company or your vendors/suppliers) and external customers (the ones that pay!), your expertise and understanding are often beyond theirs, but the need to find common ground and effectively communicate or translate technical details are critical to your success, and theirs.
Here are some examples that may be relevant to you:
Problem now stated, it is my mission to provide some value in how to combat or mitigate (insurance lingo for limit) this challenge. Here's are some strategies:
- demonstrating value in a sale
- setting proper expectations for your product or service delivery
- troubleshooting issues
- promoting adherence to processes
- getting buy in from business leadership
- new process or systems adoption
It isn't necessary for every customer, client, or passerby to have the same technical understanding of the service you're providing as you do. What is essential is that the customer understands what the scope of work is and what they're paying for. I try out explanations on my 7-year-old - with a completely open mind and no prior knowledge, he's a good judge of how clearly I can explain a process without the necessary technical lingo.
To make the sale or mitigate customer concerns about time or spending, remember it's not dumbing down, but translation. Simplify, illustrate, and ask questions.
How have you made your most technical topic easy to understand?
- Find common language.
- Avoid using technical jargon or acronyms that the recipient of your message may not know.
- Simplify, slow down, and provide only relevant info.
- Less can be more if it's understandable.
- Use metaphors.
- Tell a story your customer can relate to that makes your intended point.
- A good infographic or diagram can be a major help here.
- Ask questions to assess the listeners understanding:
- Does that make sense? Are you with me so far?
- Put yourself in their shoes.
- Try to take the blinders off and pretend that if you didn’t have all the knowledge, would you follow?
- Self-deprecation or even technical-deprecation may be useful to keep people from getting defensive when they are confused.
- "I recall getting this mixed up before someone explained it to me, too."