I managed a pizza restaurant a million years ago, when I was putting myself through college. We’d “sling pies” and have shorthand for ordering. Every industry has its own jargon. The auto industry jargon makes less sense than others.
Salespeople tell an “up” that they’ll “land” on a car whether it’s a “CPO” or a new one that will need to be “RDR’d.” If the salesperson is lazy, he might “puppy dog a plate” or “ranch them” on a test drive. Sometimes they’ll “put them in a loaner.” At some point, the customer is asked to complete an “app” before they go to “the box.” Then we’ll “call it in” and get any “stips” like “POI” or “POR” so that finance can “spin paper” and “get it hung.”
Most of those words mean something completely different in another setting. An “up” is a direction or a Pixar movie. “Landing” is something a plane does at an airport, and an “app” is something downloaded to a mobile device. And I don’t know many people other than a mime who look forward to going into a box. A box sounds like solitary confinement in a prison cell or a polygraph examination of a prime suspect.
The pizza restaurant shorthand never made it to the front of the house because we knew no one would know what we meant. So why do we do it in the car business?
1. Speak Plainly and Simply to Your Customers.
Jargon is fine with coworkers because we can speak the same efficient language. Don’t use it with a customer.
If you need a stip for a deal, tell the customer plainly. You can say, “The bank has preliminarily approved your application and needs a few more items for the final approval.”
If the bank asked for POI or POR, don’t use the letters. Tell the customer exactly what the bank needs. “The bank wants to verify your income with your most current paystub.” Speak plainly to your customers and you’ll get clear results.
I’m a former English teacher, but I still check my spelling before I send anything.
2. Use Spelling and Grammar Checks.
Speaking plainly and simply holds true whether you’re speaking to a customer face-to-face or if you’re communicating by email. Take the time to do it correctly. Open your email settings and turn on spelling and grammar checks on your email.
I’m a former English teacher, but I still check my spelling before I send anything. Turn on grammar check also, because spellcheck won’t catch “Sum daze eye right weal an sum thymes I donut.”
I tell finance people all the time that we have to slow down to speed up. If you take the time to send an email, take the time to do it right.
3. Watch Your Language.
Our customers need and expect us to be professional. Most of them have plenty of friends and don’t need for us to pretend like we’re one of theirs. If you’re from the South or have a military background, “sir” or “ma’am” comes easily. If it doesn’t, just be professional. Don’t “Hey man” or “dude” them.
Dropping F-bombs should be an obvious no-no, but anything that would be banned from a Disney cartoon should also be banned in your office. You’re a professional. Act like it. Pretend that your grandmother is in the room if that helps.
Our customers don’t get impressed just because we know our own buzzwords, and they don’t always ask for a translation. Instead, they just say “No” to whatever we’re trying to sell and try to get away as quickly as possible. Speak clearly, take your time writing, and be a professional.