Kirsty Butcher

Mind your language

Google Translate should really work on a ‘techie’ language. Trying to get a Plain English explanation of technology can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t know your ASCII from your elbow, writes Kirsty Butcher.

I, myself, recently endured the experience of sifting through error reports and techie tickets to try and suss out server issues. I’d like to think I’m more tech savvy than most, but I’m certainly not fluent and this kind of experience is enough to make you blow a fuse… crash… pick your tech pun.

It’s undoubtedly difficult trying to explain a topic that is second nature to you to someone who’s not well versed on the subject. It’s almost like playing Articulate – you have to avoid using the words that you really want to use to explain something. And you’re not even sure which the forbidden words are, because you don’t know how much the other person knows.

But from the other side, not fully grasping something can be embarrassing. Knowledge is power, and when you don’t have it, you feel powerless and you’re less likely to engage.

This disconnect is a real issue for proptech, and in a way it symbolises one of the biggest hurdles for digital transformation in property. It’s often commented that awareness is key to the growth of proptech, and therefore communication is essential. If tech companies can’t clearly express, in terms that are comprehensible to the property industry, why and how their products can help to solve real problems, take-up is always going to be a slow struggle.

Proptech is a buzzword-fraught movement and it can be intimidating for those trying to enter the market and navigate the tech world. Knowing cool abbreviations and the latest lingo helps us to feel part of something, gives us that tribal sense of belonging. But language can be a bridge or a barrier. Knowing jargon shouldn’t be an initiation test.

When used well, language can help customers and potential clients to understand and engage. A good example of where the tides have turned is in personal finance. Where previously, customers had to wade their way through antiquated ‘legalese’, companies like Virgin Money championed a move to Plain English. Proving professionalism and diligence shouldn’t require using formal and technical vocabulary. You can come across as an expert without making your customers feel like they are deciphering a code.

It’s partly about getting across what the customer actually needs to know. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of Artificial Intelligence to understand how a customer-service chatbot could save your staff time.

Both proptech and language are all about efficiency. Bland tech terms blur the real uses of tech. When researching companies for PlaceTech, how often do we come across an ‘About’ page that describes a ‘multi-functional cloud-based smart solution’ without giving any useful detail.

To sell a product, it’s crucial to really get the buyers to understand what you’re selling and how it can help them. Having buyers not feeling equipped to buy isn’t good for any industry.

Imagine you’re talking to a friend at the pub. You wouldn’t talk about beer with chemistry terminology.

  • Kirsty Butcher is production manager at PlaceTech

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