Plain and simple

easy maze
Want a better relationship with your customers? Want to spend less time and money dealing with frustrated or irate customers? Want more customers to walk out of the store with your extended warranty or service plan? There’s a sure fire way to make these things happen, plain and simple.

If you’re a business that wants to stay on good terms with your existing customers and attract new ones, here’s my advice: Keep it simple.

Write your purchase agreements, warranties, service contracts, protection plans, etc., in plain English.

Legalese, technical jargon, terms-of-art and the like are generally offensive, breed mistrust and alienate existing and potential customers. A person considering whether to buy your product shouldn’t need an engineering degree to understand what it does or how it works. A law degree shouldn’t be necessary for a customer to decipher what you will do for him under your warranty. And he shouldn’t need advice of counsel to decide whether the protection you’re offering under your product protection plan is a good deal.

The language you use in your warranty and other documents says a lot about your company. Language that is plain, simple, and easy to understand says you’ve nothing to hide, you’re proud of your offering and that you’re not trying to put one over on the customer. It invites the potential buyer in, instead of pushing him away. So count among the benefits of clear language that it enhances your brand and helps you sell.

Clear language also provides benefits after the sale. Customers expect and reward good customer service. Clarity and simplicity helps you eliminate or at least minimize or reduce customer disputes after the sale. Frustrated expectations are the major source of friction between a business and customer. A disappointed customer can soon become an angry customer, who can soon become the plaintiff in a lawsuit against your company. Plain language is an element of good customer service. A plainly worded warranty or service agreement is less likely to confuse or mislead most customers. So a customer is less likely to develop inaccurate or unrealistic expectations and be disappointed. And where an agreement’s terms are clear, it makes it easier for your customer service staff to effectively and efficiently address and resolve customer questions, concerns and complaints well short of litigation.

But sooner or later you’ll wind up in court defending your warranty or service contract. Plain language will also benefit you here. Courts enforce clear and unambiguous contract terms as written. Not too long ago, a court threw out a class action lawsuit against Best Buy because it found that clear language in the service contract knocked the legs out from under the plaintiffs’ claims. But if a court finds a contract’s language unclear and open to interpretation, it will read the language in the consumer’s favor. When this happens, a company can be saddled with obligations and responsibilities it never intended to undertake and be exposed to liability it never contemplated or budgeted for when it made its pricing decisions. This of course can be disastrous.

Simplicity and clarity build trust, the foundation of all strong relationships.

This post draws from a presentaion I made with Jim Martinez, Right Story Group, in August, 2013.


Filed under Best Practices, Court Decisions, Customer Experience, PR & Branding, Resolving Disputes, Risk Management, Service Contract, Warranty

5 responses to “Plain and simple

  1. Pingback: La relazione col cliente? Fatela facile… | AICEX


    Its too hard to define the exact status. Simply writing in simple english/ hindi will not end the issue.
    We have to make following points very clear
    !. Are we serious in providing after sales service to our customers
    2. Budget allocation added in purchase or not.
    3. Duration of spares availability for ascertained life of the product.
    4. Clarity between sales and service teams is of utmost importance,as this is the only point from where the EGO CLASHES on the superiority issues and service suffers the most here in only. As no company dares to give extreme powers to service, and service department is kept like a slave working under SALES team.If sales and service team jurisdiction is defined with total transparency and spares are arranged on priority than there is no point of customer dissatisfaction et all.
    5. pricing of spare part.
    6.Good per call return to service provider, with total cross verification of each and every customer call.
    7. under the threat of consumer forum usually some people specially the persons attached with this profession tries to over power, so there should be a strict control over policies to follow and no deviation be accepted except to the rarest exceptions.
    8. Issues must be cleared within specified time only.
    9. Clear guide lines be made available to service centers/ service locations where they should work freely but under the actual and mutually accepted conditions, under pressure they should not be imposed.
    10. Take it for sure if product is GOOD than good service network will make the products FAST(EST) moving BRAND.

  3. Pingback: An Orwellian approach to legal writing | Driving Value

  4. Paul

    Well presented case for clear language. You put the case well.

    We’ve been designing software to help organisations use plain language in all documentation. Our StyleWriter software helps spread the art of writing clearly throughout an organisation. But you must convince management the current style is counter-productive. Your article helps.

    Nick Wright
    Designer of StyleWriter copy-editing software
    StyleWriter Demos and Free Trial at:

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