Siegel+Gale recently completed a year long study of 1,214 American
homeowners and investors that shows huge demand for simple, plain
English communications. A few interesting quotes:
Fully 84% of all consumers say they are more likely to trust a company
that uses jargon-free, plain English in communications. And 79% say
they think it is “very important??? that President Obama “mandate that
clarity, transparency, and plain English be a requirement of every new
law, regulation and policy.???
Three-quarters of survey respondents (75%) say that complexity and lack
of understanding have played a significant role in the current
financial crisis. Moreover, 63% of those surveyed feel that “banks,
mortgage lenders and Wall Street intentionally make things complicated
to hide risks or to keep people in the dark.???
The survey asked how much of an impact jargon-free, plain-English
explanations and disclosures would make on consumer interest in a
number of categories. Consumers reported:
a 79% increased interest in investing in a financial product,
a 73% increased interest in selecting a broker or a financial advisor,
a 67% increased interest in purchasing a life insurance policy,
a 63% increased interest in taking out a loan, and
a 63% increased interest in applying for a credit card.
I doubt this comes as a big surprise. I think we as a population have become desensitized to government, legal and financial jargon to a point where we assume it's the only option. We muddle through it, hire people to translate it and hope for the best. It's a sad state of affairs and one that can change. We have to demand it. We have to show that it's wasteful and counter-productive.
The hardest part is admitting that we don't know or that we're confused. When we're sitting in that office, we want to show that we're smart and on the ball. When the jargon starts flying, it's too easy to nod and say "ok." I do it too. If we're serious about changing this kind of communication, we have to be ready to say "I don't get it" and "I need you to help me understand using simple language." It's nothing to be embarrassed about - as customer, we have the right to demand clarity. In the end, it's the businesses and organizations that can provide this clarity that will have a better chance of finding success in the future.