You can have all the technical expertise and customer service experience in the world, but if you can’t communicate clearly it won’t do any good. There are many barriers to clear communication with your customer.

Jargon is the biggest barrier to clear communications. Jargon is a set of terms particular to an industry. Computers have their own dictionary of terms which is enough to throw even the most seasoned computer user into despair.

On top of this, the customer service industry has acronyms like SLAs and FCR. These stand for Service Level Agreement and First Call Resolution. Even with the words spelled out, it’s still unclear to many people what these are. The SLA is the agreement on how fast technicians have to respond to the various levels of trouble tickets. The more critical the issue, the faster the response.

First Call Resolution simply means an issue that was resolved on the first call. This often applies to a help desk where the first person a customer speaks to solves their issue. Terms like this needlessly confuse customers and make them feel even more confused and frustrated.

When speaking to a customer don’t use jargon. Speak in plain terms anyone can understand. It can help to pretend you’re talking to a parent or friend in your life who is clueless about computers. Speak to your customers in the same way, with a friendly understanding and caring attitude.

Just as jargon is too specific, being too vague is also a barrier to clear communication. Recently, a customer was working with a network team member to move a database to another server. It was a web-based application and after the move was complete, nothing showed up for the customer. She contacted the network technician stating what she was seeing. His response was, “What system are you using?”

My customer came to me for help because she didn’t understand the question. This could mean any number of things. What browser are you using? Are you on a Mac or a PC? What is the URL you’re looking at? We had to email the technician back and ask what exactly he was requesting which added time and frustration to resolving the issue. Be precise when communicating with customers.

It’s very easy to assume everyone understands what you mean. It’s easy to overlook something trivial like saying “system” when you know what system you’re talking about. Try to be precise as possible especially when communicating. Otherwise you’ll find yourself going back and forth with a customer to clarify and not make progress resolving the problem.

There can be an actual spoken language barrier. I support customers whose native language is not English. I work with customers who speak Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and French. While they may be able to speak English and hold a conversation, when it comes to certain terms they may not know the words to communicate the issue they’re having. Many of my customers consider my ability to speak “computer” a second language. Imagine how hard it must be to know the terminology in their native tongue and in English.

It takes some guesswork and some demonstration to get a clear picture of the problem. All the more reason when you’re communicating with your customer to use simple words if needed and find a common ground on which to communicate. If your customer can’t understand you and you can’t understand your customer. You’re not going to get anywhere.

Always be clear and direct with your customers. The more time you spend clarifying, the less time you can spend solving problems.