Kinds of Help



In my last blog I challenged you to find the simplest way of describing what your service or product does. It’s a challenge I have set numerous groups over the past few years, often with entertaining results. Interestingly, most organisations describe what their products and services do in terms of helping their customers.

“We help our customers look great at an important event.” “We help customers learn to drive.” “We help customers to get fitter.” “We help customers to choose the right insurance cover.”

I have a love-hate relationship with the word “help”. Helping people is a good thing (of course), but the word “help” is a fluid term. “Let me help you with that…” can be used in the following contexts:

“Let me do that for you.”
• When someone from the tech support team sets up your email account on your smart phone for you.
• When you have groceries delivered to your home.
• When a changing room assistant helps you by fetching another item in a different size.

“Let me show you how to do that.”
• When someone shows you how to use the machine to buy a train ticket at a foreign airport.
• When the fitness instructor demonstrates how to use a kettle bell.

“Let me point you in the right direction.”
• When a stranger tells you the best way to get to the railway station.
• When your friend gives you a new recipe to try.

Some of the people and organisations I have worked with are truly helping people, and doing amazing things, but where the responsibility for the final result lies with the customer, for example, if they are losing weight or saving money, then the word “help” can reflect a lack of certainty.

You may recall another recent post where I described different how different words convey different levels of likelihood - probability language. “Help to” and “support to” are words that usually suggest a lower degree of certainty. As a result, the last of the three types of “help” described above comes with unfortunate subtext - “Let me point you in the right direction… but really you’re on your own buddy!”

Do you use the word help to describe your product or service? If so, can you swap the word “help” for a stronger, more certain, alternative?

A couple of examples:

Instead of “We help customers choose the right insurance cover” can you say “We make sure all our customers get the right insurance cover.”

Instead of “We help customers stop smoking” can you say “We make sure all our customers get the support they need to stop smoking.”