Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Invent Your Vocabulary to Emphasize Who You Are

The other night I was on a Southwest Airlines flight, traveling home from a speaking engagement. While waiting to board, I noticed a sign advertising Southwest’s concept they call “transfarency.”

The sign read as follows:

Transfarency [Trans-fair-uhn-see] n.

  1. Philosophy created by Southwest Airlines in which Customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares actually stay low – no unexpected bag fees, change fees, or hidden fees. Created and practiced exclusively by Southwest Airlines.

Yes to low fares with nothing to hide. That’s Transfarency.

In the past, I’ve written about the concept of how changing vocabulary can help shift an attitude and even a company’s culture. But, inventing words takes the vocabulary concept to a new level. Southwest Airlines has always promised to be a low fare airline. They give away peanuts, not meals, and they are proud of it. They don’t “nickel and dime” customers with extra fees, and they’ve used that point to differentiate themselves from their competitors. And, now they invented a word to describe it, transfarency.

There is a word to describe what Southwest has done. It is portmanteaus. It is combining words and sounds from two or more other words. It can be clever, yet at the same time it can make a point. Southwest’s use of the two words, transparency and fare, align with their brand promise and is part of their customer experience.

Robitussin, the popular cough syrup came up with a campaign a few years ago to emphasize the results of using their product: “Don’t suffer the cough-equences!” That’s a successful way of defining what they want their customers to experience.

Sometimes it’s not about combining two words, but making words up. I remember the Volkswagen campaign in the 1990’s where they used two German words, fahren and vergnugen, to create fahrvergnugen (pronounced far-fair-gnu-ghen), to describe the driving experience. Roughly translated, the word means driving pleasure. That’s what VW wants every customer to experience when driving one of their cars. It’s a brand promise.

Another made up word is WBYCEIYDBO, which is actually an acronym that CarMax came up with that means, “We’ll buy your car even if you don’t buy ours.” The word or phrase emphasizes they are friendly, flexible, and easy. And, the commercials are fun. They’ve created a strong message about their version of customer experience.

There are plenty of examples that can be found with a little Internet research. The point of all of this is to get you to think of an interesting, and even fun, way to describe what you do for your customers and what you want them to experience.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

 
  1. And then there is the relatively new video American Airlines uses as its pre-flight instructions. High production value and an attempt to make those instructions (that no one really listens to) a bit more fun and compelling. But the ending of that video is problematic for AA. The flight attended/star of the video looks into the camera and says, “And if there’s anything we can do to make your experience more enjoyable, let us know. Because we’re shooting for GREAT!” And then she is “spontaneously” joined by more flight attendants, pilots, crew, all of whom are jumping up and down and cheering….

    …then the video ends, your flight begins, and nothing has changed. The real life flight attendants offer little by way of a “great” experience. They go about their tasks as if they didn’t get the memo that AA is shooting for GREAT! As such, AA fails to meet the promise they make on each and every flight that begins with that video.

    If you make a brand promise, you need to follow through on it. If you don’t, the experience falls even further short for your customers.

    • Bill, you nailed it. I often fly AA and have watched that video. The promise is, “Great is what we’re going for.” It’s important that someone remind everyone that is the new brand promise. Not picking on the airlines… Every company must remind their employees of their brand promise. It must be a continuous reinforcement with communication, training and leading by example.

  2. Hi Shep – I really loved reading this article and couldn’t agree more about brands finding words to describe what they do for customers. One of my favorites? “Hamptonality.” I’m a huge fan of the Hampton by Hilton brand and you can honestly feel the “Hamptonality” when you encounter any of their super-friendly and authentic team members. The brand coined the word to describe their culture years ago and I haven’t met a competitor that provides anything close to their service experience.

    • Hi Lauren – Thanks for the nice feedback on the article. Glad you enjoyed it. I love the Hampton Inns, and I love Hamptonality! I had the honor of speaking at one of their events. Awesome people with an AMAZING hospitality mentality… known as Hamptonality!

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