Why You Should Speak to Customers Like a Truck Driver

“Why isn’t my phone working? I’ve missed three straight calls!”

My mom sighed, “This doesn’t make any sense. What am I doing wrong?”

I asked a few questions to help her figure it out. I snagged the iPhone, swiped on the screen, and there it was – the culprit.

Airplane mode. The iPhone was on Airplane mode. Of course she couldn’t receive any calls.

After explaining Airplane mode to her and how to turn it on, my mom understood. But then she asked, “What’s this button in the middle?”

“Ah, that’s Bluetooth button,” I replied. She fired back, “What’s Bluetooth?”

As I began to describe Bluetooth and how it works, I realized she was lost. And so was I. She had no clue of the language I was using.

It reminded me of speaking with customers.

Last week a customer asked me, “Will your code slow down my website?”

This was an easy answer. “No, our code is asynchronous.”

Boom. Case closed.

Except the customer had no idea what asynchronous really meant. Or how it related to our code.

I said it again, “Asynchronous.” This time I fumbled over the word. It’s a mouthful!

Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? (Chris Tucker, Rush Hour)

The customer was puzzled. And I was frustrated too. Why didn’t she understand me?

If you speak like a scientist, only scientists will understand you. But if you speak like a truck driver, both scientists and truck drivers will understand you.
Simon Sinek

It’s that simple. I was speaking like a developer, or a scientist, and the customer had no idea what I was talking about.

Sinek explains you must use clear language so that someone who isn’t in your industry will understand what you’re trying to explain.

Use words that your mom could understand when speaking to customers.

Here are three examples to help you.

1. Similes Make People Smile

Zapier connects different web apps automating tough tasks for customers. The entire software is built on APIs. You know, application programming interfaces.

Try saying those three words fast five times in a row. It’s a mess.

What is an API? First, Zapier explains how web servers work with a simple analogy.

"In the same way that a program like Solitaire waits for you to click on a card to do something, a web server runs a program that waits for a person to ask it for a web page."

Zapier has an entire course, titledĀ An Introduction to APIs, describing exactly how their product works. It’s a great example of using simple, clear language that lots of peopleĀ can understand.

2. Conversational Tone

Baremetrics is a zero-setup, one-click SaaS analytics for Stripe. It delivers valuable metrics like Lifetime Value, Churn, and Monthly Recurring Revenue to its customers. Or simply put, numbers that matter to your business.

Math is not a thrilling topic. It’s plain boring. That’s why Baremetrics uses a conversational tone to get its point across.

In their SaaS Metrics Academy email series, founder Josh Pigford explains how to Slay the Churn Beast. First, what is Churn? Here’s how Baremetrics explains it.

The simple formula for it is: Lost Resource / # of resources at beginning of interval. I'm sorry I just used the word "formula." More plainly put, say you're calculating user churn for the month of May. You had 100 customers at the start of May and 5 cancelled during the month. You'd say (5 customers / 100 customers) * 100 = 5% user churn

Formula. Resources. Interval. These three words are dry.

Baremetrics apologizes for using the word formula. This makes customers smile and feel like Churn isn’t that complicated. And then Pigford backs up that sentence with a clear example.

3. Show the Specifics

Wistia provides professional video hosting for its customers. This means people must embed codes to place videos onto their webpages or in their email campaigns. Embed codes – exciting right?

What is this embedding you speak of? Wistia makes it simple to understand what embedding is and why it’s important through its documentation.

Putting video on your website is the best way to get your message across. The act of putting a video on your website is called embedding . . .

The customer understands embedding, but with multiple embed and sharing options inside the app, which one should a customer use? Next, Wistia shows how to use embed codes in this silky smooth video.

Wistia Embed Codes

The video shows the code being embedded on a blog and walks the customer through, step-by-step on customizing the code. The language is clear and the demonstration makes the customer feel like they can do it on their own too.


Our code is the last thing to load on your website. Because it loads out of sequence from the rest your code. This means it won’t slow down your site.

The customer understood and I didn’t have to use the word asynchronous. A win-win.

The next time you’re trying to explain something to a customer, talk like a truck driver. Not a scientist.

Now if I could just explain Bluetooth . . .


Learn more about Snappy Customer Support.

One Comment

  • Michael Reply

    Most truck drivers know what bluetooth is. They all use it everyday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *