by: Alain Thys
Which would you consider to be the minimum acceptable level of education for your customers? Primary? High-School? University? Post-Grad?
If you think this is a non-sensical question, think again. At SAP or Samsung it looks like you need at least a university degree before they want to talk to you. Microsoft, Disney (!?) and Starbucks even require a post-graduate.
Have I been smoking something I shouldn't have? Not really, but I have been "SMOG-ing". SMOG (aka. simplified measure of gobbledygook) is a formula developed by Harry McLaughlin. It allows you to measure the readability of a text by translating it into a score. This score reflects the years of formal education a person needs before being able to understand what is written.
Using the SMOG calculator of The Literacy Trust in the UK, I have randomly run a SMOG for a few international brand's. For this I used random paragraphs from their "About Us" pages. This on the premise that if they were truly customer centric, the language they used should be understandable by the average customer checking them out.
Here are the results:
|Nintendo||10.49||Some High School|
|General Electric||12.49||High School Graduate|
As I haven't heard of Starbucks making a similar request to serve you coffee, I don't think this is because consciously shun the "less" educated.
I think it is much more likely that the people who have been writing these texts have post-grads themselves and simply project their use of language on the rest of the customer universe. Thereby forgetting that most customers drinking coffee are not as academically gifted as they are (or may not even speak English as a first language).
So here's my question to you. Do you know your SMOG score? And if you do, have you got guidelines for the numbers to hit? If you don't I suggest you quickly set them up, so you don't enter McLaughlins land of gobbledygook.
After all, customer-centricity starts with simple things. Making sure your customers understand what you write, is one of them.