Using specific language increases customer spending

Speaking to customers in concrete, specific language makes them feel more cared for and important

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Use concrete, specific language when interacting with customers to increase satisfaction and spending

Impacted metrics: Customer satisfaction | Customer spending
Channels: Sales team | Customer service | Retail store


Train your team to use specific, concrete language when interacting with customers: “Let me check how much it will cost to upgrade your subscription” not “Let me look into your query”. Or “I’ll look for that t-shirt in grey” not “I’ll look for that”.


  • Increased customer satisfaction and customer spending (9% and 13% respectively, for the firms in this study).

  • The effect was tested and holds in different situations: in speaking or in writing, searching for a product or trying to solve a problem, and across different firms and product types.

  • Works in all forms of interaction (e.g. live chat, face-to-face), when selling to or supporting a customer, and across different firms and products.

Why it works

  • Using concrete language suggests that the employee paid attention and listened to the customer, making the customer feel unique and important.


  • The effects work during an interaction between you and the client, they don’t apply in one-way communications (e.g. website, email campaigns).

Companies using this

  • At the moment, companies don’t appear to be training their employees to use concrete language in customer interactions.

Study type

Market observations and Lab experiments, United States and Canada.


Packard, G., & Berger, J. (July 2020). How Concrete Language Shapes Customer Satisfaction. Journal of Consumer Research.

[Link to research paper]


Schulich School of Business, York University and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Remember: Because of the groundbreaking nature of this paper, it could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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