Microspeak: Engagement


Meetings are so passé. You no longer have a meeting with a customer; you have an engagement:

I have a customer engagement tomorrow and they have a question surrounding Feature X.

Note that this use of the phrase customer engagement is different from the process known as customer engagement. The process is an ongoing interaction, a long-term activity to build customer loyalty.

The author of the above sentence is not using it in the process sense (because you don't have "a" customer engagement; rather, a meeting is one component of the overall process of customer engagement). Nope, the author is just trying to sound cool.

Comments (23)
  1. Marquess says:

    Engagement? Isn’t that what the military calls enemy contact involving copious exchanges of various types of metal?

  2. bahbar says:

    What are the rules of engagement for Feature X ?

    That ought to be the answer to such an email!

  3. Bob says:

    "Copious exchanges of various types of metal?" Isn’t that what we call Ozzfest?

  4. Chriso says:

    Maybe its about to engage the customer and forcing him to come to the point about Feature X, instead of just surrounding it? :D

  5. Pierre B. says:

    Maybe he’s a product evangelist and will marry the client to the product?

  6. John says:

    Management are not human, either.

  7. Mark says:

    Maybe that’s so the person in question doesn’t get snarky comments when they end up going to lunch. Also, meetings are time-limited and can be interrupted, unlike customers.

  8. To this former English major turned software geek, it sounds very much like the conventional 17th-19th century usage of this word, e.g. "I have an engagement that evening" or "We have a business engagement". It’s not especially jargony, but perhaps a bit archaic, which probably makes it sound more obnoxious to the engineer’s ear.

    An engagement usually refers to an appointment or promise. Sometimes it’s a contractual obligation.

  9. Warren says:

    On a related note, how does a question "surround" a feature?  "Surround" isn’t a synonym for "pertaining to" or "about".

  10. Marc says:

    I have a customer engagement tomorrow and they

    have a question surrounding Feature X.

    To which you must respond, "and what is the net net of their Feature X ask?"

    And, sadly, they will understand you completely.

  11. Tom says:

    To add to what Jason has said — You will not find anything surprising about the use of "engagement" to mean "appointment" if you’ve ever read the Hansard transcript of Prime Minister’s Questions.  The first question to the prime minister is usually the formulaic: "If he will list his official engagements for [today’s date]."

    The Microspeak probably derived from the language used by management consultants (McKinsey, Bain, et al.)  For example: "So did you transfer to our Abu Dhabi office permanently, or are you just there for a client engagement?"

    The management consultants, however, use the term less to mean "appointment" and more to mean "contractual obligation."   The entire duration of the project forms a single engagement, even if you rack up a quarter-million frequent flyer miles going back-and-forth to the client’s site.

  12. wendy house says:

    Does microsoft believe in sex before marriage?  Or is the engagement period formal, with a party to announce it and only after marriage does one partner get wedding tackled?

  13. Olivier says:

    "Maybe he’s a product evangelist and will marry the client to the product?"

    evangelist… one more stupid microspeak. Nowadays everybody is an evangelist.

  14. Mark says:

    And what’s the problem with evangelist?  It means exactly what it says – someone pushing "the good news".

  15. Cheong says:

    Pierre B.: That exactly what I thought when saw the line… XD

  16. chris says:

    I have heard people use engagement to imply meeting when they really mean golf game, or some other activity with the customer

  17. Andrew says:

    Do Microsoft still keep using this lingo after seeing it appear on your blog Raymond? :P

  18. neminem says:

    To a geek and major Whedon fanboy like myself… "In their resting state, our actives are as innocent and vulnerable as children. We call it the "Tabula Rasa". The blank slate. Now imagine the imprint process filling it, creating a new personality. A friend, a lover, a confidant in a sea of enemies. Your heart’s desire made flesh. And when the engagement has been completed, all memory of you and your time together will be wiped clean."

    Be truthful here – is Microsoft working on Active technology?

  19. ATZ Man says:

    Maybe the one question also has various simulacra of questions drawn crudely on various mops, which are positioned on all sides of the feature, thus making the sales person believe the question surrounds the feature.

  20. gechurch says:

    To this former English major turned software geek, it sounds very much like

    the conventional 17th-19th century usage of this word, e.g. "I have an

     engagement that evening" or "We have a business engagement".

    I understand you point ("I have a prior engagement" is still in common usage), but don’t think these examples are in the same category as the one Raymond gave. These examples use engagement fairly generically; it could be a work dinner, a grand opening etc. Raymond’s example of "a customer engagement" sounds to me like it could only mean a meeting. So why not use the word meeting instead? It would have been much clearer. The answer is the person who used it chose to sound pompous and self-important instead of being clear. Sounds like micro-speak to me.

    By the way, how can you be a former English major? Did your degree expire?

  21. Captain Obvious says:

    @gechurch:

    "By the way, how can you be a former English major? Did your degree expire?"

    Change your major before you graduate?

  22. Anti-snark:  Out here in the consulting world, we call it an "engagement" when the customer is paying us to be there.  The customer "engages" Microsoft Consulting Services, so I think it’s completely legitimate.  Raymond, was the writer in MCS?

  23. David Pritchard says:

    Seems reasonable. Feature X is probably one of the customer’s top asks, so he wants to take the issue offline, and action the efforting moving forward.

Comments are closed.