Customer Experience News & Trends

Short words you should not use with customers

In business, we often need to speed up conversations and transactions with customers. But some conversation shortcuts just shouldn’t be used.

Thanks to text, acronyms and abbreviations are move common today than ever. We’re almost always looking for a shortcut, whether we email, online chat, talk to customers or text them.

But there are dangers in abbreviated language: In many cases, customers and colleagues might not understand the  shorter version, causing miscommunication and missed opportunities to create a great experience. Customers might feel like you are talking above, below or around them.

On the business level, “text talk” comes across as unprofessional in almost every situation outside of friendly mobile phone banter.

In fact, poorly written communication with customers and colleagues can even jeopardize careers, a Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) survey found. (Note: When you must use acronyms, the previous sentence is an example of how to do it well. Refer to the full name at first mention, put it the acronym in parenthesis and use the acronym throughout the rest of the written message.)

So when it comes to communicating with customers via any digital channel, here’s what to avoid:

Strictly text talk

Many so-called words have emerged with the evolution of mobile devices and text messages. The Oxford English Dictionary has recognized some common text abbreviations such as LOL and OMG. But it doesn’t mean they’re OK for business communication purposes.

Avoid these most commonly used abbreviations in any electronic communication:

  • BTW – “By they way”
  • LOL – “Laughing out loud”
  • U – “You”
  • OMG – “Oh my God”
  • THX – “Thanks”

Note: Because FYI existed in business communication long before text messaging, for the most part, it’s still acceptable. Other than that, just spell out what you really want to say.

Ambiguous terms

Say or write ASAP, and 99% of people understand you mean “as soon as possible.” While it’s meaning is universally understood, it actually means very little. One person’s opinion of ASAP is almost always quite different of the person promising it. Customers always expect ASAP to be faster than what you can deliver.

The same goes for EOD (end of day). Your day may end much earlier than a customer’s.

That’s why ASAP, EOD and these other ambiguous acronyms should be avoided: NLT (no later than) and LMK (let me know).

Company and industry jargon

“ASP” (average selling price) might be as popular around your workplace as the words “lunch break.” But it probably has little to no meaning to customers. Any jargon and abbreviations that are common to you — from product descriptions to government oversight agencies — are often foreign to customers.

Avoid using jargon when speaking. When you write, however, it’s OK to follow the rule we mentioned above: Spell it out the first time, put the abbreviation in parenthesis and use the abbreviation when mentioned later.

What to do

Shortcut language — abbreviations, acronyms and jargon — in text messages and email  is OK in a limited number of situations. Just keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Only write what you’d say out loud. Would you swear, say LOL or share something confidential or personal with colleagues or customers? Probably not. So keep those things out of written professional communication, too.
  • Watch your tone. You might be friendly with customers, but you probably aren’t friends, so don’t communicate like you would with an old buddy. Plus, business communication should always sound professional, even when it’s between friends.
  • Don’t be afraid to call. The idea of text messages and, in most cases, email? Brevity. If you need to relay more than one thought or a few sentences, you should probably make a call.
  • Set expectations. Let customers know when they can expect text and email responses from you (i.e., will you respond on weekends or after hours?).

Subscribe Today

Get the latest customer experience news and insights delivered to your inbox.