Leaking internal speak

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:

Billboard #1:

Billboard #2:
congratulates its employees

Billboard #3:
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!


12 Responses

  1. Good post. I’d much rather be on a team than to be an employee. I’d rather be a guest, customer or client than an account.

    I know of a direct mail marketer who used to use s#!$head as the filler name for direct mail pieces. An internal joke. One day, he set up the merge process incorrectly. Prospect names didn’t merge. No one noticed before the mail went out. Everyone got a letter addressed to “Dear S#!$head:” (real word used). You need to be careful how you think of and address people, even behind the scenes.

  2. Darrin,

    Oh dear! Did the direct mailer have any backlash from people receiving the piece? Thanks for commenting.

  3. You will not find a company that treats their employees so good. Plus their company takes very good care of its accounts/customers.

    The reason for the buildboard is to take employees from other companies. Because the numbers apx alarm produces is almost to big to be real. Thats why they posted it.

  4. Graham,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your point of view. My point was simply that how you speak about someone is often times an expression of how you treat them. To take a drastic example, I am sure that there is a difference in those that refer to their spouse as “sweetheart” and those that call their spouse a “ball and chain”. It is my experience that when a company defines the brand so completely that they even have a special way of referring to customers, good things happen. When naming conventions are left to whomever sometimes things slip.

    I mean, what would have been the harm if the billboard had said “APX ALARM congratulates its employees for making 125,431 families safer this summer”? Not only would the volume be conveyed, but the humanity (instead of the commodity) would have been a focus as well. Just a thought.

  5. Very well said, Bill. I agree with you completely… and I currently WORK for that company. I have witnessed the internal workings of APX Alarm and it’s definitely ALL about accounts. Sure they treat their “employees so good” if they are decent salesmen. If they come up weak, or need a little guidance- it’s a rarity that they are given a second chance, or given any extra time.

    It’s all about numbers to them. ::sigh:: I’m done after August!

  6. Vee,

    I appreciate your honesty. Unfortunately, APX is not alone when it seeks the treasure first. And of course I understand their need to grow the business. I just wish that more companies would see the bigger picture that profits do not have to come at the expense of the customer experience. In fact, profits often come because of the customer experience. I’m a big proponent on “wowing” the customer instead of only trying to “woo” them.

    [SIDE NOTE: I see a lot of traffic on this post recently. If anyone else wishes to comment, please do so.]

  7. I used to work for them and trust me the owners view these customers as dollar signs and unfortunatly as I was in a leadership position with them their employees are treated the same. Don’t work for them don’t buy from them and don’t support their greed.

  8. Check out this site for more stories about Apx Alarm. You really wouldn’t believe how bad these guys are until your inside this company and working with the owners and other managers. They are good at what they do but it is at the expenses of Accounts (customers) and it’s employees. This site has stories of other alarm companies too and is very informative. http://www.alarmsales.org

  9. John,

    Thanks for stopping by and adding your insider’s view! The alarm sales link sounds like it may be of vaule. Thanks again.

  10. Hello, Do something to help the hungry people from Africa or India,
    I made this blog about them:
    in http://tinyurl.com/5pul7l

  11. we refer to our “accounts” as “families protected” now!

  12. The Rabbitt,

    That is a much better way of referring to customers. So hopefully at the end of summer we’ll see 3 billboards that read:

    Billboard #1:

    Billboard #2:
    congratulates its employees

    Billboard #3:
    for protecting 125,643 families this summer!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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