Last week I presented at the fall conference of the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA), which took place at a lovely resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I needed to wake up early to put finishing touches on my PowerPoint slides, so I called the hotel operator for a wake-up call at 5:30 a.m. When I requested the call, the operator's response was "Do you want a follow-up?"
I was not expecting that response, so I puzzled over whether she had said follow-up, fill-up, or something completely different. I said, "I'm sorry. I don't understand. Would you repeat that?" She repeated, "Do you want a follow-up?"
Although I stay in hotels fairly often, I had never before been asked about a follow-up. I explained that I wanted a wake-up call, not a follow-up.
Then it was the operator's turn to explain. She said, "Will one call be enough? Or do you need a follow-up call?"
Finally I understood. A "follow-up" was a second call for those who don't wake up easily. No, I did not need a follow-up.
When the operator phoned the next morning at 5:30, she asked, "Do you need a follow-up?" This time, I understood. I told her I was awake and did not need a follow-up.
A similar exchange might have taken place in email:
"May I have a wake-up call at 5:30?"
"Do you want a follow-up?"
"No, I want a wake-up call."
And so on.
Problems occur when we business communicators assume that the other person knows our language. This assumption often involves business representatives communicating with customers and clients, using terms that are second nature in the business. To the hotel operator, "a follow-up" was as familiar as sunshine in Scottsdale. But it puzzled me, the customer.
What about the expressions you use with your customers in email and on the phone? Do your customers, clients, donors, and others know your lingo?
Please share your comments here.