Talking to Clients – Make sure they understand

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Too often we hear the same compliment from clients. Let me quote exactly what one of our clients has written on a letter of recommendation: “I appreciate their professionalism but also that they can explain computer related issues in language I can understand”.

As a technology professional, we are used to our lingo. We use acronyms for everything from industry certifications to the applications and devices we use every day; MCSE, VoIP, NAT, UDP, TCP, NAS, etc. This is not unique to our industry. Every industry has it, from carpentry to medical care. What we do need to remember is that most of the people we interact with, especially if we’re working with clients directly and are not insulated within an IT department, do not understand our lingo or terminology. They don’t understand what a NAS is, and they don’t understand what creating firewall translations means.

More importantly, if you don’t understand this and keep it in mind, then your points may not get across to clients either. Generally speaking, most people won’t ask questions if they don’t understand what you’re saying. Basic psychology is simple: people don’t want to feel stupid. They will believe that if you’re explaining this to them in the terms you’re using, they should be understanding it. If they aren’t, they will feel that they should be, and won’t want to look incompetent by asking what might seem like ‘dumb’ questions. So instead of asking questions, they will keep quiet and then when the conversation is over, you will mistakenly walk away thinking they understood everything you said. This can create huge barriers, miscommunication, frustration, and can lead to wrong decision making. Imagine if an executive assistant needs to get approval from their VP in order to green-light the new firewall you want to deploy in their office, and you’ve explained how everything works in the most technical terms that other IT professionals would understand. Now that executive assistant needs to repeat that information to their VP. Do you think it’s going to get across exactly in the same manner?

There are numerous methods of delivering your information in a manner that everyone can understand. Depending on the situation you’re in, and the level of technical understanding of the client you’re speaking with, different techniques can be employed. You can use analogies to other things they might comprehend. You can use visual aids by drawing things out on a whiteboard. Again, there are many different techniques available, but it is up to you to figure out which one is going to work best.

Remember, you need to make sure that your clients understand what you’re saying. You want them to understand how their technology works, not be afraid of it.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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