Anyone who works in a customer-facing role knows how demanding and awkward customers can be. Dealing with them is even harder when you have complicated information to convey. You need to find ways to make it easier to understand. That will raise the value of your support service and boost loyalty.
In any customer-facing industry, it’s great when you have simple answers to your customers’ questions. “Is my order ready yet?” Yes. “How can I view my transactions?” Go to this link. Resolving support requests so quickly minimizes the drain on your resources and keeps the customers responsible happy — but simple answers aren’t always possible.
Whether the complexity is inherent to your industry or unique to your product and/or service, you can find yourself needing to provide some lengthy explanations or in-depth guides.
This is always a major challenge. Your customers can misunderstand what you’re trying to say, leading to further confusion, or simply find it impossible to parse. This can ruin your vital reputation.
When there’s complicated information to be conveyed, then, you need to get your approach right. In this post, we’re going to look at six effective ways to make tricky explanations more accessible and easier to understand. Let’s get to them:
1. Break it down into parts
If you’re going to communicate complicated information in a useful way, you need to understand it first. That might sound obvious, but not everyone in a given business is going to possess granular insight into every aspect of that business.
Let’s say that your customers keep asking about how your supply chain works, but you don’t know in any great detail, so you try to scrape an answer together using input from the rest of your team. That’s far from ideal.
To solidify your understanding of the information you need to get across, and give you a framework for setting it out, you should break it down into parts. How many? As many as you see fit. If it’s action-oriented then you should split it into steps. Do this, then this, then that, with each step being clear and simple.
If it’s informational, you should start simple and build up. Define the terms (more on that later), lay the groundwork, and add the layers until you’ve covered what you intended to. This will reduce the likelihood of a customer giving up halfway through.
2. Build a knowledge base
While you can just try to explain things to customers when asked, it isn’t usually the best way to proceed. If you’re not good at it, they’ll get angry at you — you personally. And if they find something hard to understand, they might feel uncomfortable in the conversation, wishing they had some time to process the information without you waiting for them to reply.
Think about the three things we all want to be respected when dealing with customer support services: our time, our dignity, and our intelligence. All three must be protected, and this is where there’s value in building a dedicated knowledge base.
The point of a knowledge base is to empower your customers to help themselves, setting out information in a structure that’s searchable and straightforward to guide them to what they need.
Anyone who needs direct support can still get it, of course. This is supplementary: you have it operating alongside your regular support service so customers (particularly those new to your product and/or service) can slowly review the information on offer.
3. Eliminate any jargon
Technical terms can cause some major problems without the companies responsible noticing. As I noted earlier, not everyone in a business has the same level of understanding, so the head of marketing might ask the head of engineering for an explanation of why a particular feature works in a particular way.
Engineers don’t need simplistic formulations — they operate using technical language, and their explanations will generally be dense and packed with jargon. If the head of marketing knows that jargon, they might just leave it in, ultimately leading to problems because the customers probably won’t know it.
Strip away any terms that your customers might not understand, replacing them with simple and unambiguous language. If in doubt, take it out, because it’s better to be overly cautious than to assume something will work and eventually discover that you were wrong.
Root this clarity in the core of your branding: you must be consistent throughout everything from your company description to your social media posts (if you don’t have brand guidelines yet, build some).
4. Use points of comparison
Sometimes simple language isn’t enough to clarify a tricky concept or mechanism. Perhaps you’re trying to explain how something works but it’s so hard to grasp that you only cause more frustration by suggesting that it’s actually very straightforward.
When that happens, you generally need to turn to points of comparison. Think of it as building a bridge of understanding from something they already know quite well. We looked at the value of creating a knowledge base, so let’s use that as an example.
For someone who doesn’t quite grasp what a knowledge base is, you could say it’s like your own private Google. People search for things they want to find out, and your knowledge base shows the most relevant results: results that you have total control over.
With that comparison, they might go from being unclear to completely understanding what you’re talking about. Whether you’re using analogies, similes or metaphors, think about how points of comparison can help you communicate.
5. Rewrite based on feedback
Making concessions for your customers is only justified if those concessions actually make things better, and you shouldn’t operate based on assumptions. Follow the tips here to create some drafts, but don’t stop there: keep drafting to yield improvements.
And how do you know what to change and what to keep the same? You get feedback from the people you’re targeting. Run the information by some of your customers, letting them know that it’s all unedited and you’re looking for harsh criticism. Offer incentives if you need to: some people can be reluctant to get too critical, so they might require convincing.
Take all the comments you get — “This part doesn’t make sense”, “I don’t understand this term”, etc. — and rewrite accordingly. Repeat this process until you have something that most people seem quite happy with. You’ll never please everyone (some will want things simpler, others will find them too simple), so settle for the approval of the majority.
6. Create explainer videos
We’ve largely looked at written explanations here (or those vocalized in customer calls), but you don’t have to provide information through words — and accompanying illustrations — alone. The core appeal of the video format is that it catches the eye and provides exceptional creative options, and you can take advantage of that to really simplify an awkward topic.
Not only can you tweak the pace to ensure that information is conveyed at the right tempo, but you can also bring in everything from explanatory animations to overlaid clarifications. It’s possible for a 30-second video to do a better job of making something clear than a 3000-word article — especially since people are likely to pay more attention to it.
If you upload such videos to YouTube, you can then embed them in your knowledge base content to double up on the traffic. It’s an efficient way to get your points across with minimal effort and maximum return.
In conclusion, then, conveying complicated information to customers is largely about breaking it down to make it as simple and clear as possible before presenting it in a way that’s optimally accessible and convenient. Or, to simplify that, breaking it down and making it easy to find. Use the tips we’ve been through here to overhaul your customer service.
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