Don’t confuse your clients or customers

The other day I was asked to support an issue with a client’s website. I had a feeling that the issue was with a 3rd-party service and not actually anything to do with the website.

The problem was that the 3rd-party service was actually down for maintenance so it wasn’t loading correctly on the website. We saw this and the client’s initial response to me was that the website isn’t working (a fair assumption). We’re loading this service in via an iFrame so it’s effectively embedded into the website. I explained this by saying something like…

“Yes we pull this data in to an iFrame using their API which is down for maintenance so it’s affecting their service on your site, hence it not showing.”

Hmm. That’s not really very clear is it! It’s all too easy to get caught up with day-to-day jargon and explain things in ways that we understand. Sometimes we need to look at things through others’ eyes and think about how they understand it. I was always told that good communication doesn’t end when you have relayed a message, good communication ends when the recipient has received and understood the message. I failed on that last part because they didn’t understand what I was talking about. A better way of explaining it may have been something like…

“That particular feature isn’t working at the moment but service name are fixing it as we speak and tell me it will be off for about 2 hours. As soon as they have finished, it will automatically work again. I’ll keep you updated.”

This isn’t about dumbing things down, it’s about speaking in plain English and focusing on what matters to your client or customer. They don’t care about APIs, service engineers or how things are done, they just want to know if you have a handle on things and when it will be working again.

So next time you talk to your client about something like this, learn from my mistake and just double check that you are explaining things clearly.