One of the recent and interesting changes in the insurance industry, is the way companies communicate with their clients. Put simply, they want to simplify the message. Various fields across corporate, law, accountancy, tax, medical and insurance ‘speak’, amongst others, are changing from verbose, convoluted language to plain speaking.
Three driving forces influencing change are social media, new consumer protection laws, and business growth. How language influences the overall customer experience is important for interaction, comprehension, customer satisfaction, and ultimately sales. Complexity is not the path to developing good customer relationships.
Improving communications with customers improves just about everything else – from initial perception to trust, acquisition and retention. This fresh approach is certainly blowing the cobwebs off those dusty, small-print documents!
The benefits of plain language
The intention is not to use simple language to dumb down content. Plain language is content written for everybody whether highly educated or not, and should be effective across all cultures. It’s about quicker comprehension and saving people time.
- Straightforward language offers better understanding of your products and services, with the aims of generating greater demand and increasing the customer base.
- Brands will be evaluated as accessible, trustworthy, honest, open and transparent because effort has been made to communicate directly and clearly.
- Today, faster communication is probably your most valuable marketing tool. Customers have neither time nor patience to wade through cumbersome sentences.
- Getting into your prospective customer’s world is key. Don’t expect the general public to understand industry jargon – your inside terminology is not useful to anybody else.
- Translating industry buzzwords isn’t easy. An expert writer who knows your industry and customers’ expectations is the best way to convert your messages from indecipherable waffle to readable, comprehensible language. Writing plainly takes professional know-how, empathy, and commitment to clear communication.
- The operation to convert your communications should cover everything in your company’s engagements, including both internal and external communications. Consistency is key. If you slip in and out of concise language, then your customer is going to be confused – and they’ll move on.
- Ensure your customer understands you the first time around. If they have to puzzle it out a second or third time, they are unlikely to take the action you are hoping for.
- Writing plainly erases ambiguity, which means you get the message across more speedily. It also means your staff will spend less time clarifying confusing content. And the less time your company spends on sorting out communications, the more money you will save.
How to write in plain language
Get to the point right away. Write to be understood. Frame your information in a logical, clear manner and to the point. Nobody wants to be halfway through your message and still wondering what you are trying to say.
Use the Active Voice. Active: “I ate five hamburgers.” Passive: Five hamburgers were eaten by me. The former is quicker, clearer and more direct. You’re using fewer words.
Be personal. Address your customers as “you” rather than “the customer” or “the user.” You immediately sound more friendly and approachable.
Write short, simple sentences and avoid jargon. Use easy, everyday terms rather than complicated ones. And if you have to mention something technical, then make an effort to provide a full explanation. Use the most straightforward way of expressing an idea.
Write from your audience’s point of view. Writing in simple terms means you are considering your audience’s point of view when expecting them to act on your message. Complicated language makes people feel at a disadvantage – and if you do that, there’s going to be little response from them.
The Golden Bull Award
This is the infamous award that recognises the very worst in written information. Here’s one winning response to a customer’s query as to whether the company sold blank CD’s:
“We are currently in the process of consolidating our product range to ensure that the products that we stock are indicative of our brand aspirations. As part of our range consolidation we have also decided to revisit our supplier list and employ a more intelligent system for stock acquisition. As a result of the above certain product lines are now unavailable through jungle.com, whilst potentially remaining available from more mainstream suppliers.”
Check your policies, check your life
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With Verifi you are able, for no charge, to access information on all your life and investment policies at a glance. You are able to check the types of policies you have, the names of the insurance companies providing the cover, the nature and extent of the insurance cover provided – and other vitally important information such as the details on your policies being correct.
To find out more, please visit: www.verifi.co.za