Little Things Part 1: Use Their Name

Every good customer service department will preach this: use a customer’s name whenever possible. Many companies require it be used a certain amount of times during a conversation, others say use it when you can without being annoying, and the worse don’t even bother doing using customers’ name.

Here’s some tips on when and how to use a customer’s name appropriately:

  • Emails. Go out of your way to find a customer’s name when responding to emails. If they say their name somewhere in the email, you have no excuse for not using it. If a customer’s name is mentioned in the “From” field, you should definitely being using it. If you notice a customer’s name is part of their email (such as bob@bobinc.com), use it (you’ll be right far more times than not).Another good way to make the customer service experience more personal over email is to use examples related to the customer. If the customer’s name is John Smith and his company is Smith Co. (according to what he said and/or your company’s record), use john@smithco.com instead of the generic bob@bobinc.com or example@examplesite.com. Do the same for anything where you’d normally put an example or something generic.
  • Phone. When a customer calls, you should ask for their name so you can lookup their account. If it’s a sales call, ask for their name and email address (so you can follow-up). Once you lookup a customer’s account, say something like “OK. How may I help you, Mr. Smith?”. Don’t use their name at the end of every sentence, but it’s generally a good rule of thumb to use a customer’s name wherever you’d use sir or madam.
  • Live Chat. Live chats are increasingly appearing on company web sites. Most chats will prompt a customer for his or her name, and most customers will put in all or part of their name. Use logic when deciding what to call them. For example, if a customer inputs John S., call him John. If a customer inputs “No Name” or something else that may not be a name, do not address them by name. If a customer inputs John Smith, call him Mr. Smith or John (depending on what your company does). Like with the telephone, address customers by name when appropriate and use the sir/madam rule.

Calling a customer by first or last name depends largely on the company. A majority of companies that target average consumers call their customers by their first name. If you work in a business that’s considered “up-tight,” call customers by their last name.

Occasionally a customer will have a name that is difficult to pronounce. Ask them once or twice to repeat their name, and if you still can’t get it (correctly), ask the customer if it’s okay to call them by another name such as their first name, nickname, etc. Chances are that if someone has a difficult name, they have an easier to pronounce alternative.

Another thing a customer service representative may occasionally run into is when what the customer said over email, phone, live chat, etc. is different than what the company’s database says. Unless it’s an obvious typo, use what the customer says at that moment instead of what’s in the database. If it seems really weird and you are dealing with any sensitive (or even semi-sensitive) information, ask for verification.

Keep these in mind and the act of calling the customer by name will get much more personal and much more effective.