A couple of conversations over the last few days provided today’s inspiration. The chats were with two folks who are smart, good at what they do, and completely lost when it comes to technology. That’s really not a big deal for either them given that they’re not tech professionals.
They do know as much as the typical “civilian” and they spend time on the web and using digital tech in their non-work lives. In fact, they know quite a bit more than the average person since both have web sites for their respective businesses and were involved in those sites’ creation. Each is also working on making improvements – new designs, better SEO, a smoother social integration. That’s where things have gone awry and what provides a good business thought today.
The design and coding firms with which they’re working are typical of a number of folks working in the field. Their work is fine but their interaction with their clients sucks. They build up barriers of bullcrap instead of providing clear explanations of not just what they’re doing but why they’re doing it. They are incapable of translating what can be baffling vernacular into terms that their clients can grasp. This frustrates (and I expect frightens) their clients, who are smart business people used to making informed decisions.
Keeping them in the dark by speaking to them in a language they don’t speak is harmful to everyone involved. The client can’t be sure they’re making the right choices and, frankly, neither can you since you haven’t provided clarity. If it’s NOT the right decision, would your expectation be that the client will immediately re-engage you to fix it? Maybe so, but it won’t be at additional cost to them. All it does it eat into your margins by your having to perform more work for no more money.
My rule of thumb is this: I channel my mom. My mom is TOTALLY technically illiterate (she’d be the first to tell you that) but smart about a lot of other stuff. If I feel as if the explanation I’m giving a client would be good enough for my mom to explain it back to me after I say it, I’m probably on solid ground.
Like any business, the business I’m in – tech and consulting – has a lot of moving pieces and tons of jargon, but the concepts aren’t dissimilar to other things. As professionals, part of our job to be translators for those folks who touch our business even if they don’t speak its language. What do you think?