Sitting in an Amsterdam cafe trying to find something other than eggs and croissants for breakfast, the traditional Dutch biscuit and butter caught my eyes. I had a good chuckle when my food came. What I got was two Dutch cookies served on a small toasted bread roll loaded with butter. I was expecting something like a scone!
Language and terminology used in different countries or contexts have different meanings. What one views as plain logic might be completely vague for another person. At the same time, one’s presumption might create havoc for someone else. In business, you need to emphasize clarity in communication.
In the design of applications and tools, images, colors, and videos are used to illustrate and provide instructions. Grocery retailer self-checkout kiosks use images to help customers identify the produce so that the proper product code would be used to find the unit price. When there are 6 types of papayas, every single type needs to have a corresponding picture. Customers might not know the type of papaya they pick up. A product box with a name but no picture will be missed or ignored as customers expect consistent illustrations. This triggers frustration for the customer which leads to a longer queue and need for customer support.
Verbal conversation is considered an effective approach as parties can get clarification when what is being conveyed is unclear. Yet misinterpretation happens. Phrases such as ‘standard procedure’ might seem straightforward. However, the ‘standard procedure’ might not be practised in the same manner in all areas of a business. Without reiterating what the standard procedure is, it leaves room for interpretation. It could be costly when idiosyncrasies become evident later, say during implementation of a new process. Back-tracking causes delay and rework.
Written communication requires more attention to details and specificity. Written instructions, in particular, needs to be thorough and complete. Consider user manuals. Many are loaded with technical jargon, assuming the users have the same background expertise on the subject as the author. Information gaps and terminology that is easy to be mis-interpreted lead to confused and unhappy users. They also cause unnecessary mistakes. The effects on external customers include loss of trust and loyalty. For internal customers, productivity and efficiency would be impacted.Neither presumption nor logic works well when the communicator and the receiver of the information do not use the same reference point. Click To Tweet
Neither presumption nor logic works well when the communicator and the receiver of the information do not use the same reference point. To avoid mis-communication, it is better to be as clear, concise, and specific with the information to be communicated. Otherwise, the intended message would be interpreted in the context viewed as appropriate by the receiver of the information.