How to guarantee disconnects with your customers

The power of language, again

Language is critical to success in business and life.  It is easy to talk “our” talk.  However, we need to talk in language our customers can understand.  That is the only way we can successfully connect with them and vice versa.

How to Guarantee Disconnects with Your Customers - The Power of Language - Mike Russell

Conversely, we can guarantee disconnects and discontent if we forge ahead, talking our way and in “our business” language.  And disconnects can lead to ruptures and outright customer loss.

Consider these two slide headlines from a 200+ slide assessment report.  (I’ll address the 200 slide issue separately)

  • People plan, build and run IT so that users gain value they desired from the services consumed
  • Finance is the language IT uses to communicate with its customers

Do you think IT will connect well with its customers?  I think not.

Despite the two slides being in the same section, the recommendations are for two different and opposing things:

  • Deliver value your customers desire
  • Talk to your customers with financial language

Huh?  The report first recommends transforming IT to deliver what its customers want and need.  In other words: be customer-focused.  The report then recommends using financial language – not the language of value – for customer communication.  NOT the same things!

Sure, financial aspects are part of the value proposition.  However, finances are rarely, if ever, all the value proposition.

Talking to customers in financial terms will only do one thing:  train them to consider your products only in financial terms.  That means you have walked willingly into the commodity tar pit.

Do you really want to be there?


  • Examine your language and the language used by others in customer interactions?  Where is your focus?  Your business or customer needs?  Are you talking with or at customers?
  • Are you trying to position away from commodification?  Does your language reflect this?
  • Identify some prominent words you use that illustrate customer disconnects.  Change those words every day in the coming week.  Repeat the process each week for a month and note what impact your changes have on others.
  • Are you able to influence others just by making changes on your own?  Why or why not?  Aside from the customer impact issues, do you have weak influence?


By Mike Russell