We’ve learned to accept that change is inevitable. But life today is more transformed than changed. The mobile phone may have changed our lives, but digitization and the smart phone practically transformed life as we knew and lived it. The IT revolution made sure of that.

But, not all revolutions test every tree in the forest. Some are subtle, like moss growing on a rock. Either way, all revolutions impact life. So how do people accept change? The answer is in our language and vocabulary. So the challenge of preparing the ground for change falls on reformers, activists, innovators, artists and others of that ilk. When people become aware of the new, know what to call it, and understand its usefulness, they are closer to accepting it.

In specialized fields of work and life, there is a need to craft new words to define new inventions and practices. New inventions warrant new words to describe them. So we have words like MRI and CAT scan, or Adware and BIOS. Terms that describe distinctly new products created out of new technologies.

Every revolution inspires a new vocabulary to share meaning and build awareness. In business, marketers prepare people for changes by helping them understand and adjust to them. Today’s marketers are equal to the task. Armed with the metrics, they make the distinctions and comparisons necessary to define and explain change. So, they create new words to emphasize particular distinctions, and add new attributes to old words to create new distinctions.

Market information systems provide the reasons to create new vocabulary with every new idea or strategy that business propounds. Some hold water and lend better clarity and understanding, while others only complicate the message. Needless to say, some expressions become common parlance, while others get less traction and fade from public memory.

Let’s take a quick look at some examples of cliches and jargon:

  • Like blue-sky thinking and boiling the ocean. Both expressions have been around for a few hundred years, but gradually became rare. However, they found favor with the world of business and were re-inducted into business parlance in the 20th century.

Though boiling the ocean seems easy enough to understand as being overly ambitious or attempting something impossible, there is still some opacity around its meaning and usage. Meanwhile some people believe that blue sky thinking refers to thinking or ideating without strictures or guidelines. Others believe it refers to thoughts or ideas with no basis in reality.

The phrase returned to 20th century business vocabulary when it was used to explain financial fraud perpetrated by over-inflating or over-capitalizing securities without any basis. In a phrase these ideas were based on nothing more tangible than blue skies and hot air.

  • Like CX, UX, and VX, which some believe are mutually exclusive, while others think they are the same thing. The fact is, even if your customer, user, and viewer are not all the same person, they’re certain to share some similar needs. The quibbling is because technology now allows every aspect of business and its experience to be measured and analyzed with ease. While they’re submerged in the data, it’s easy for companies to get overwhelmed by the numbers, and overthink these distinctions. So more often than not, we forget that users and viewers are customers too, and more importantly people.

  • Like BoFu, MoFu, and ToFu sound dubiously like dairy alternatives and expletives, rather than positions in the marketing funnel. These were outlined to help marketers tailor communication as required when they pitched to customers at different stages of the buying journey. However, this acronymic jargon complicates the narrative with an apparent newness that offers no new distinctions.

The concept of the marketing funnel predates inbound marketing. For close to a  century, marketers have been aware of the varying needs of customers at different stages of their buying journey. The reality is there’s no hard-and-fast rule that your customers will all share the same needs, in the same position. In fact their position in the funnel only defines how long they’ve known you and how much information may have reached them. It does not guarantee the customer’s familiarity or interest in the information. It only attests to the fact that the customer is aware of your business and possibly has some information.

  • Like customer experience and customer service, where the difference is pure semantics and the new jargon is just an attempt to keep pace with change. The phrase “customer experience” gained new stature as being the sum of all customer interactions with the business. This led to the emerging belief that customer service is a reactionary service, offered to customers after they make a purchase.

Modern-day marketers make the point that while customer service is about customer experience, the customer experience includes more than just customer service. Profound as this may seem, it’s really more jargon. But several professionals quote Edward de Bono’s Sur/petitionto make their case. “All soup is water, but all water is not soup.”

The only distinction to be made here is to reiterate that today’s customer experience is what business called customer service, before the IT revolution took root. The truth is that whether you call it customer service or the customer experience, you need to let it take the wheel and drive every stage of your business.

Customers are turned off by pretentious language and opaque expressions. They prefer to engage with people who can keep conversations simple and focussed on the real issue. The best way to make sure you and your customers are on the same page is to ensure that you open yourself to the possibilities of using words they are comfortable and familiar with. Don’t force your customers to learn your jargon or find a dictionary every time you communicate with them.

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

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