Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dial Into the Right Dialect

My thanks to DISH Network for the video lesson instructing me, when in Boston, how to translate, “I’ll put my kahkeez in my kahkeez.” My gratitude isn’t because I’ve been confusing my car keys with my khakis when visiting Beantown. I’m pretty good at understanding the difference between the two anywah I go.
     Instead, my appreciation for the “Kahkeez” video is because it reminds us of the impact of dialects in retailing. The way in which we pronounce words projects to the shopper an abundance of associations accumulated over a lifetime.
     The words themselves, not just the pronunciation, carry associations. What those of us in some parts of America call “soda,” consumers in other regions refer to as “pop.” The Northeasterner who might get disgusted when offered a snail along with the coffee in California would be more likely to buy when told that’s what we call a spiral-style cinnamon roll. If a salesperson describes the freezing rain outside as a “silver thaw,” the shopper might safely conclude this salesperson has connections to the northwestern U.S.
     In many Chinese dialects, the word for 4 is pronounced almost identically to the Chinese word for death. In what Western consumers might call superstition and certain Chinese, Korean, and Japanese consumers would call good judgment, saying the word for “4” in retail transactions requires special caution.
     But I’m told that residents of the Chiu Chow area of China consider that same word to be lucky.
     As long as we’re skilled and authentic, we can improve the probability of a sale by matching our dialect to what impresses the shopper positively. This has to do with more than geographical location. Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University North Central, and University of Missouri-Kansas City recommend we stay aware of the three categories of language retailers can use with consumers, each category with its distinct rules of grammar:
  • Ceremonial language. Culture dictates what we say to the consumer if we want to create store loyalty. With certain people, it might be “Hello, sir,” while others expect, “What’s up?” The “Have a nice day” will fit fine with some shoppers, but strike others as smarmy. 
  • Conventional language. Making conversation about the latest TV episode or sports team’s performance develops rapport with the shopper. 
  • Commercial language. We’d like our verbal transactions with shoppers to end in commercial transactions with customers. Ask for the sale.
Click below for more: 
Announce Commonalities with Shoppers 
Offer Superstitious Shoppers Good Luck Charms 
Guide through Rituals with Ceremonial Language

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