Every tech-savvy person has heard (or even experienced) customer support horror stories at least once. These tales usually lament the struggle of dealing with users who seem to have no right to be anywhere near a computer: users who cannot find the "any" key, users who cannot tell the difference between the spacebar and backspace key, or users who do not even know what an operating system is.
Even though home computers have become easier to use, customers might still feel confused or frustrated. When business customers contract engineers for new software, it is often difficult for the tech-savvy to speak the language of the customer and nail down exactly what features the client is seeking. Effective communication is vital in both customer service and business-to-business relationships, and learning how to speak the language of your client is often easier said than done.
One of the most important things to remember is to always treat the customer with respect. In her article "Increasing Customer Loyalties by Teaching Techies to Talk," Dianne Durkin emphasizes that building a good, respectful relationship leads to commitment, trust, and ultimately, customer retention–important not only in customer service, but in the business world as well.
Although it might be the case that tech-savvy staff are frustrated with their customers, Donna Boyette of Tech Republic suggests that a small dose of humility is in order. Boyette encourages "technical people" to try something new and outside their area of expertise–such as sitting in the cockpit of an airplane -- in order to experience being "clueless." This would help technical people better understand and empathize with their non-technical customers. In order to achieve clear communication, Boyette recommends speaking the customer's language by using non-technical terms and concepts that are already familiar to customers.
Jeremy Gerard of Smashing Magazine emphasizes that one should not simply replace technical jargon with business jargon, but instead try to adapt technical information to your customer's business goals.
For practice, Gerard suggests writing a non-technical article or teaching a class on a technical subject you know extensively. Not only will these practices help you grow your own skills and better understand the process that goes into your work, but you will learn which methods of communication are effective and which fall flat.
"Communication skills do not benefit Web professionals alone. They apply to anyone, from any industry or business, who has to communicate with others," Gerard says. "No matter what business you are in, healthy communication skills will help you do it better."