3 ways to stop confusing clients with financial jargon

December 26, 2016 by Brenna Daley

A financial advisor talking with a client using financial jargon

About the author:

Brenna Daley

Associate technical writer

Brenna works on the Advicent Learning Development team to create user help materials for both clients and advisors. She loves helping others strengthen their communication skills through writing.

Communicating complex information to an audience with little prior knowledge is a daunting task. This is especially true when working with clients new to financial terminology and concepts in an industry filled with specific jargon. Despite this, advisors continue to take on the task of helping their clients understand their current financial situation and prepare for a number of events that can affect their financial future.

Improper use of jargon in client relationships

While trying to explain a new or complicated concept in regard to a specific client, there is a natural tendency to use more than one term in the process of explaining. In written communication, people tend to use different terms because they’re afraid that using only one term to describe a topic or concept will cause redundancy in their writing. However, using multiple terms with the same meaning can make it very difficult for a client to learn a new concept.

Take, for instance, discussing a way to manage credit card debt. If the conversation is started by referring to “debt” and then transitions to referring to the same debt as a “liability” can be confusing to a client who does not yet understand the concept of liabilities.

3 ways to make your jargon usage more consistent

As a technical writer, I use a variety of resources from publishers and technology companies to determine the most relevant terms to use consistently throughout our products, documentation, and in conversation with team members. Here is how you can employ a strategy to use consistent terminology during correspondence with clients.

1. Recognize common topics

Make a list of concepts that typically come up during conversations and written correspondence with clients. A good way to determine this list is by going through recommendations that you have made in the past. Alternately, you can add to a list of topics directly after meeting with clients.

2. Define an audience

Determine the level of financial knowledge that your clients have, on average. While you’ll inevitably have to tailor conversations with clients based on their financial literacy, it’s easier to use consistent terminology if you practice using the same term with most clients that you talk to.

3. Make a guide

After you have determined concepts that are commonly discussed, choose a term for each, and compile them into a glossary complete with definitions. This not only acts as a way to ensure that you avoid using multiple terms to refer to a single concept, it also creates a script to define new concepts to clients. Next time that you are writing or meeting with clients you can use terms from the guide to direct your meeting.

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