The Importance of Names in Customer Care

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Names are important to people, more to some than others. But for those for whom getting their name right is important, it becomes a small yet vital part of perceived customer care.

Many call centre’s ask you how you want to be called, and how to pronounce your name. Some staff diligently record that in their database so there is continuity if there is to be more than one call, and more than one person dealing with the customer.

Here are the key features of how we “designate” a customer

– asking and then embedding how they want to be called

– pronouncing their name correctly

– getting their preferred designation e.g. Mr, Mrs. Ms, first name, even nickname

– being sensitive if they don’t want to be called anything at all

– being consistent i.e. getting pronunciation or designation consistently right over time

– being sensitive and flexible about designation over time ie. if someone changes their mind or their status

We need to be prepared to inquiry about how people want to be called. We need to be humble in our attempts (and failures) to pronounce correctly.

Some people are very sensitive to the point of touchiness about how they are addressed, on the phone, by letter or email, or face to face. For some this changes depending whether they are in a one-to-one interaction or with other people. An elderly lady might want to be addressed as Mrs Jones in front of neighbours or strangers but prefer to be Doreen on the telephone or when it is just her in reception.

If in doubt, inquire. Be open to learning names and not being perfect. Be ready to apologise and do record and practice names for continuity of service. names matter to many people. Getting names and designations consistently right can prevent anger, raise perceived customer service, and also ease communication, making calls and face to face interactions flow more smoothly and quickly.

Occasionally being too familiar with first names can make people feel disrespected and belittled. Paradoxically, some tenants may see first name terms as opening the door to time-consuming chat and socialising. We have to strike a balance and treat each person as unique:

– tuning in to their needs and how they want to be addressed whilst ensuring we deliver quality service for all our tenants

– being open to them telling us how they want to be addressed and letting that change in different circumstances

– recognising that customer service often flows more efficiently when people feel listen to and acknowledged

This small factor in the way we deal with our customers in social housing can have a big impact. it costs little to get it right, and can cost a great deal when we get it wrong.

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About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

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