While driving to work today, I saw three consecutive billboards for APX Alarm – a national home security system company located in Provo Utah. The three billboards read:
congratulates its employees
for the 125,000+ accounts this summer!
Putting aside for a moment the “self speak” oozing from these billboards, my attention quickly focused on one word in particular – accounts. This word echoed harshly in my ears. I asked myself, “Why would APX alarm spend this kind of money on three billboards only to leak how they internally refer to their customers as accounts?” In my minds eye, I could imagine two APX Alarm employees having a discussion:
“Hey Bob! How many accounts did you get this week?”
“Well, Judy. I’m proud to say that I got three accounts before Thursday”
As I pulled up to the office and hurried to my desk, I looked to Dictionary.com for some guidance. Dictionary.com defined “accounts” as “a business relation in which credit is used”. That didn’t help me feel any better. In fact, I suddenly felt sorry for these “accounts” (not to mention fine folks who were number 125,001 and beyond as they were relegated to a solitary “+” symbol). Didn’t they deserve more than to be called accounts? Weren’t these alarm systems protecting their families, pets and homes and not merely their credit?
My thoughts then turned to two other examples: A company that used to internally refer to their customers as “Benjamins” as in Benjamin Franklin on the US $100 bill. To them customers were only money. This didn’t feel right either. I then thought of Disney. Disney refers to their customers as “guests” as in friends or family members staying in your home. I suddenly felt a little better…and strangely hungry for a $4 churro (I settled for a breath mint instead).
The lesson? If you are stepping out to speak with the public, make sure you leave your internal speak at home. Better yet, align your internal speak with words that do not have to be altered for the publics ears (like Disney’s “guests”).
Happy Wednesday everyone!