Teachable Moment: Speak your Customers’ Language


A dental hygienist conducts a regular cleaning for a patient. The patient is a very active and athletic young professional whose time is of the essence. The hygienist notices signs of gum disease and talks to the patient about the symptoms and takes the time to explain that if the condition worsens, insurance may not cover all of her expenses. Anticipating that she really needs to drive home the point, the hygienist makes an analogy that she knows will resonate with the patient—“not flossing your gums is like not working out your muscles– your gums won’t stay strong and healthy.” Because the message was delivered in such a relatable manner, the patient went home committed to flossing.


  • Carefully and fully explaining important or difficult information to your customers or patients can help put them at ease. Customers and patients will also realize that you have their best interests at heart.
  • While you don’t want to overwhelm a customer with too much information, it’s important that your customers or patients understand any potential consequences. Making the effort to secure buy-in from customers and patients can ensure mutual success.
  • When speaking to or corresponding with a customer, speak in his/her lexicon. Speak your customers’ language. Make sure what you’re saying will have meaning to the listener. This will make all communications more powerful and efficient. At The Ritz-Carlton, we think about this within the larger framework of treating guests—not how we want to be treated, but rather how they want to be treated.