Jargon-busting: speaking the language of your clients


A shift in the accounting industry has caused widespread reverberations. With changes to the typical client offering, and an increase in fintech solutions, today’s world of accounting is a far cry from the pencil pushing stereotype.

But what has remained intact is the importance of establishing, and maintaining, good client relationships. Formed on a basis of communication and honesty, these relationships determine the character and reputation of your firm.

In order to have these conversations, it’s necessary to avoid using too much jargon – or overcomplicated language. But how do you avoid it? And how do you listen out for the everyday concerns of your clients?

What is jargon?

Linguistically, jargon can be defined as a sociolect – which means that it’s a language used by a specific class, group, or profession. So, by very definition, accounting “jargon” ostracises those that don’t speak it.

For most accountants and bookkeepers, it’s second nature to use technical language when talking to colleagues or clients. And using acronyms just keeps things moving faster, imho. In a lot of ways, jargon can be a good thing.

But, being aware of the language you use is important, just as it’s important to know your audience.

Feelings of confusion

It’s this language that can lead to feelings of confusion and disillusionment for your clients. This, in turn, can culminate in less engagement with you, your firm, and most importantly with their numbers.

It is the curse of knowledge that can often lead to the use of highly complex language. Terms that are commonplace to you, even particularly simple, can alienate a client. For some, when you use technical terms, you may as well be speaking in tongues.

In the past, maintaining the position as a financial savant was accepted – even encouraged. Clients wanted to know that they were in safe hands with someone that knew what they were talking about – even if they didn’t.

But the world has since moved on. Relationships between accountants and clients are now becoming more balanced and business owners no longer wish to feel distanced from their numbers.

How better communication can help your clients

Having a simple conversation with your client about their business, their finances, and their stresses, can be incredibly illuminating.

Being the trusted adviser means being an active member of your clients’ financial team. Spotting corners to cut, and cash-saving skills, are no longer enough in the world of modern accounting.

Instead, accountants must read between the lines for concerns over payroll, making it to the end of the quarter, and everything in between.

Speaking the language of your client can often mean that you understand their concerns before you even lay eyes on their forecasts or projections. It is essential to understand that speaking your clients’ language is a form of data collection that can’t be replicated in any kind of cloud-based app, never mind a spreadsheet.

It’s natural to want to be heard and understood. So make sure that your clients understand everything that’s being said to them. Don’t let miscommunication be your lingua franca.