About three years ago, after a request from friends, I found myself inside of a TGI Friday’s restaurant in a situation that I vowed to never be in; yet there I was. After agreeing to celebrate a friend's birthday at the popular restaurant chain, I became someone I promised myself that I would never be. A person who I had poked fun at for years whenever I noticed one of my friends or family members possessed that quality.
Yes, it was at that birthday celebration that I became… the dreaded indecisive meal orderer (it still shakes me up).
There I was, sitting with friends at an unusually large dining area. As our waitress walked to our area to greet us, she asked if we would like to start with any drinks or if we were ready to order. To my surprise, each one of my friends began not only ordering their drinks—but their meals as well!
And while I usually know exactly what to order before a waitperson asks, on this particular day, I had absolutely no idea of what I should order.
As my friends began poking fun at me as I had done to them several times before whenever they were the ones holding up our meals due to their indecisiveness, our waitress not only helped me decide what to order—she also helped me learn would go on to become an invaluable lesson in marketing.
The communication method
Similar to an attorney preparing a persuasive closing argument in a trial to win a favorable verdict—when it comes to the way that your brand communicates with its audience—the words used in your marketing messaging could have a major impact on the most successful outcome for your startup—sales.
As was the case when our gracious waitress at TGI Friday’s helped me finally make a decision on what to order that night at my friend’s birthday celebration.
Seeing what had to be a look of total bewilderment on my face, the waitress helped me finally determine my meal order simply by asking me about which foods that I did not eat. After informing her that I was a pescatarian and why, she then suggested three meals on the menu that she was sure I’d like. While also repeating all of the reasons I gave her for not eating certain foods.
Instantly, I chose one of the meals that she suggested and thus, a marketing lesson was learned (I also became more of a fan of the TGI Friday's franchise that day).
The communication method the waitress used to help me order, and which turned me into a large tipping customer that evening instead of the guy just sitting at a booth with friends, is called “concrete language.” An effective form of communication that helps people feel something we all yearn for—which is to be understood.
Why using concrete language increases sales
The reason why customer service is now over a $350 billion a year industry is because now, more than ever, brands truly understand the lifetime value of a satisfied customer. Not only do happy customers continue to buy what it is that you’re selling—they influence others to do so as well.
Using concrete language when communicating with customers increases sales because it makes customers feel as though they are being heard. And when people feel heard, they feel understood. Which leads to customer satisfaction.
“People, whether customers or otherwise—want to be heard.” Writes author and Wharton School professor Jonah Berger, in his book, Magic Words. “When we analyzed almost 1,000 email interactions from a different retailer, we found similar effects on purchase behavior. When employees used more concrete language—customers spent 30% more with a retailer in the following weeks.”
How to communicate using concrete language
Communicating using concrete language only requires three things: Empathy, recollection, and specificity. For example, let’s say you own a startup that sells compact gym equipment to people that live in small spaces. And one day, a customer calls your company’s hotline asking for information about an off white treadmill that she saw on your website.
A response to her inquiry using concrete language could be your customer service agent saying, “Hello, Ma’am, while I am not certain that we still have any off white treadmills in stock at the moment, if you'll allow me a moment, I will be more than happy to check our inventory database to see if I can find an off white treadmill for you.”
By specifically stating the exact product the customer was looking for, as opposed to vaguely replying with, “I will see if we have that product in stock.” The agent would have shown the customer that her inquiry was clearly heard, remembered, and understood. And as author and entrepreneur Dan Lok, often says, “Remember, people don’t buy from you because they understand what you sell—they buy from you because they feel understood.”