< Tim Pollard | 11.12.2015 |

Speaking In Riddles

Speaking In Riddles

The use of acronyms is rife in the modern world, and the plumbing and heating sector is no exception to this trend. The problem comes when we are talking to people outside the sector, such as our customers


At the risk of further endorsing my reputation as a grumpy moaner, I simply must draw your attention to the increasing use of completely fabricated words or over-complicated language to describe relatively simple things in the hope of impressing us.

Just this morning I received an email from a company that was seeking an appointment to demonstrate its “experiential marketing creds”, and last week I was being encouraged to “generate different metrics and evaluate implementation gaps”. I suppose my ultimate example of this was a presentation for a product to be used “when tube integrity has become compromised”. It took me nearly 20 minutes to work out that it was used on leaking pipes.

The problems of trying to explain relatively technical issues will only be made worse by lapsing into jargon. If we are to help consumers to understand the benefits of improving the energy efficiency of their homes, then we must speak in a language that they recognise, containing messages that appeal to them.

For example, will the prospect of saving 330kg of carbon inspire a householder to spend hard-earned cash to pay for central heating controls? Perhaps the message that the purchase will save up to 41 per cent on your heating bill might be more persuasive? Or even better, it could save you £200 every year, from now onwards?

This brings me to my next issue. The use of acronyms has become widespread. An acronym is an abbreviation, used as a word, which is formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. Acronyms are fine, as long as the person you are talking to understands them.

In our industry there are plenty of acronyms that may be familiar to us but less so to consumers. A thermostatic radiator valve may be a TRV to you, but others may find that confusing. I’m sure that you could come up with a long list yourselves. What about 2TH, TPI, LED, BSP, LCD, MCS, LS, RHI
and PCB?

In our industry, we are often talking to inexpert buyers, both before and after installations. Life would so much easier if all concerned were clear about the options available, what is to be delivered and, crucially, how to get the best out of the installed solution. This is a two-way street. Both the giver and receiver of the information must be willing partners.

The process becomes even more confusing when totally different subjects share the same acronym. The currently popular ErP (Energy Related Products) scheme shares the acronym ERP with enterprise resource planning software. If you enter ERP into the Google search engine, you will see the confusion at first hand.

Of course, I understand the popularity of shorthand descriptions that are well known when used in context, and I also admit that I often use them myself. The problem is caused when we continue to use them with people who do not commonly operate in our worlds. Their natural reaction will be not to admit
lack of understanding, but to nod knowingly as if they have the faintest idea of what is being discussed.

This tendency is particularly true when the person concerned is part of a bigger group. You assume, probably quite wrongly, that everyone else understands what is being said, and you don’t want to appear foolish by asking the obvious question. However as someone once wisely said, “I would prefer to appear foolish for a minute than to spend a lifetime in ignorance.”

So my plea is to consider your audience carefully before giving your message, never assume knowledge and, to use an acronym, keep it simple, stupid (KISS).



‘To help consumers understand the benefits of improving energy efficiency, we must speak in a language they recognise’



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