Are You Speaking Your Customers’ Language?

Forgetting about the industry vernacular and considering the terms customers use to talk about your services can help you grow your business

Are You Speaking Your Customers’ Language?

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There’s a problem in industries like ours, a problem that most contractors don’t even realize they have, and the result is costing them money. Is it costing you money in lost business?

The problem is this: Customers have a language all their own; a language that you and I aren’t necessarily aware of. And many companies are marketing and selling to customers without speaking the customers’ language. If you can figure out what the customers’ language is, you’ll change how you do business.

The first time I noticed it was several years ago. I owned a home services company that offered plumbing, electrical and HVAC services. As we sought to grow the plumbing side of the business, we started asking customers what they needed. We were surprised by the answer: They thought of plumbing services for burst pipes and new installations but not for clogged drains. It was simply not a service that they associated with plumbers (regardless of whether it seems obvious to us or not). The customers’ “language” was that they used plumbers for pipes and faucets, and drain cleaning companies for drains, even though my plumbing team had the tools and know-how to handle any clog.

As soon as we made this realization, we fixed it. We started adding “drain cleaning” to all of our plumbing-related marketing, the side of our trucks and the list of services that was painted on the side of our building. Suddenly, drain cleaning calls started coming in.

That’s just one example, but of course it’s not the only example. Home services companies experience this all the time. Customers just don’t speak our language — and we don’t always realize it or try to speak their language.

But if you can start speaking your customers’ language, you’ll transform your business.

How to Figure Out What Language Your Customer Is Speaking

On every job that you or your team goes on, write down the exact words that the customer says about the problem they’re experiencing. This will give you the fastest education in understanding the words that your customers use.

Do they say “tap” or “faucet”? Do they use sounds to describe what their plumbing is doing? Do they assume that the “water filtration system” you’re talking about is equivalent to the refillable charcoal-filtered container that they keep in their fridge?

Make note of all of these thoughts, questions and descriptions by the customer.

What to Do With That Information

Once you know what kind of language your customers are using, you can use it to aid your business:

  • Training. Review that information regularly with your team and train them to listen for keywords to understand the customers’ needs. Equip them to discuss information in a way that is educational to the customer, but not disrespectful.   
  • Marketing. In your marketing, consider using some of that language to educate your customers while also promoting your services. I already mentioned how I added drain cleaning to my marketing to increase that part of my plumbing services. You can use customer-informed language in other marketing too. If there is a lot of sediment in the water, your customers might not think of it as sediment but as “dirty water” and you can market to that feeling. “Sediment” is a clinical, professional term. “Dirty water” (or whatever term your customer uses) is more visceral and customers are more likely to respond to marketing that expresses it in that way.
  • Products and Services. You can also combine your products and services in a way that uses customer language to your benefit. Instead of only offering an array of services and assembling one package price when you talk to the customer, create a menu of offerings in customer-friendly language. For example, offer the “Leaky Pipe Repair” service or the “Safe Drinking Water Analysis." These are good examples of taking services that you may already do and putting them into words that your customer understands and can relate to.

A Final Word

You are a respected expert in your field and you’re called upon to provide customers with an important service. However, even though you have an important job, customers don’t always understand if, when, and how they can use your services, so you need to help them.

It’s simple: Listen to what they have to say and then shape your business around those words to start speaking your customers’ language.

About the Author

Mike Agugliaro is a Business Warrior on a mission to change the lives and companies of service business owners. Agugliaro and his business partner started and grew a struggling home services company into a multimillion-dollar empire before selling the company in 2017. Today, Agugliaro is an author, speaker, and mentor. He's the co-founder of CEO Warrior, a high level coaching and training organization for home services businesses. Learn more at


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