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Use This Simple Technique To Explain Complicated Concepts To Anyone

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Use this to make your customers’ lives easier.

Why did people love Bob Ross so much?

Aside from the obvious answers (“his hair,” “his happy little trees”), people loved (and still love) Ross because he simplified something — oil painting — that had always been thought of as complex and inaccessible.

Before Ross’ TV show, if you wanted to get into oil painting, you’d need to invest heavily in supplies and classes, and spend lots of time learning complicated concepts and techniques.

Ross wanted to show people that oil painting didn’t have to be complex, and it didn’t have to be expensive.

He used only a few main colors, so that people wouldn’t need to spend so much on paint.

He went slowly, and taught techniques that anyone could use, without hard-to-remember terminology.

He broke the process down into simple steps that the average person could follow to create paintings that they could be proud of.

If Ross had taught the old way, using dense language, expensive equipment and fancy techniques, it would’ve been a lot easier for anyone to say “nope, I can’t do that.”

Instead, Ross used simplicity to inspire action.

With the technique I’m going to share with you today, you can use the same process to explain complex concepts and instructions to your customers.

The ELI5 Technique

The ELI5 (explain it like I’m 5) Technique is simple: before sending technical instructions to a customer, read them as if you were five years old and make sure you can follow them.

Note: there’s an obvious caveat with this technique. Be respectful and don’t actually treat your customers like children. This is about using simple, easy-to-understand language.

Rather than telling a customer to “take a screenshot” — something that I’ve found many non-technical people may not know how to do, walk them through the process with simple steps:

On an Apple, press Command + Shift + 3 and then release all keys. Now look on your Mac desktop and you should notice a new .png file that contains the words screenshot in the title. This is the screenshot you just took.

On a PC, click the window you want to capture. Press Alt+Print Screen by holding down the Alt key and then pressing the Print Screen key. The Print Screen key is near the upper-right corner of your keyboard.

I encourage you to check out the Explain It Like I’m Five subreddit. In it, experts distill complex topics and explain them as if the reader were five.

As an example, see how one user explains the difference between email, Google, AOL, a website, and web browsers:

Building Your Customer Service Technique Toolbox

I encourage you to bookmark this page. If you’re in customer service, I suspect you’ll be able to use it sometime in the next few days.

By having the right tools⁠—like the ELI5 Technique⁠—you’ll be prepared to tackle any challenge that comes your way.

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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