Four signs you’re talking down to customers

One way to demonstrate an understanding of your target customers is to find the right way to communicate with them. One potential misstep is talking down to customers. By communicating in a patronizing or condescending way, you give a sign that you’re out-of-touch with them. They might wind up turning away from the perceived insult.

The following are four signs you’re talking down to customers. Because getting talked down to is a matter of context and perception, take them as general considerations rather than hard-and-fast rules.

  1. Repeated explanations of what you just wrote. While you can clarify or elaborate on various points you make, if you stop and explain simple concepts or words (especially repeatedly) you might come across as condescending. What constitutes a ‘simple concept or word’ depends on your audience. If, for example, you’re writing a blog post aimed at professional swimmers, you don’t need to stop and start explaining what a backstroke is to them.
  2. Adopting the tone of a preschool teacher. Even when your customers want you to hold their hand and explain something to them patiently, you can do this without suggesting to them that they have less mental maturity than a first-grader.
  3. Offering false assurances. “Everything’s gonna be all right, folks,” you tell the irate customers whose credit card data got compromised. “There’s nothing to worry about,” you say, shortly before suspending a critical service that people depend on. A dismissive attitude, full of false cheer, puts people’s teeth on edge.
  4. Using a communication style you don’t understand. For example, you might try to adopt an ‘aw shucks’ folksy style of writing to reach your audience – but if you don’t understand how to use it, or if it doesn’t fit with who you are, it could come across as awkward and patronizing. This is a potential pitfall when speaking to people from a different cultural or socioeconomic background, and sometimes, of a different gender. Your attempt to reach them might betray a lack of sincere effort to understand them.

There are challenges to consider as well. What if you’re writing for a broader audience? How do you reach both people who are experts on a topic, along with people who might be relatively new to it? One strategy is to split the information up – maybe write an introductory article to help get new people up to speed on a topic; you can then link to this from more advanced articles.

Enlisting the services of a skilled, experience writer can also help you avoid talking down to customers. A strong writer can help you find the best way to present your content, conveying the most appropriate information in the right tone.

– Hila

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