The Name of the Rose

In “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet famously questions, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Maybe that’s true of the flower, but if your friend wants to be called Rose, just call them Rose. Using their preferred name is a basic requirement for respect and connection with any customer.

I have a common English/Irish/Scottish name*, though with an uncommon single-t spelling that people get right maybe 70% of the time. But our names are more than labels. They can be entwined with cultural, racial, and gender issues that create expectations and associations before a customer service conversation even begins.

It is impossible for any of us to completely avoid implicit biases, but we can at least pay enough attention to use the correct name for the people we are trying to help. Make it part of your quality rubric, and don’t rely exclusively on your help desk tool to insert the right name. A customer using another person’s account or a support team using a shared inbox may create a “from name” that does not match the email signature.

Names hold power beyond people, too. That is why companies and government departments are serially rebranded to dissociate themselves from past problems.

What do you call the people your team helps? We talk a lot about customer service at Help Scout, but many of you probably don’t talk about “customers” at all. You might be dealing with students, alumni, staff, clients, or partners.

The name you choose to call the people you are communicating with sends a message to the people in that group about how you perceive them. It sends a message to the folks doing the work, too.

* I was once in an email thread with five other Gmail-using folks named “Mat(t)hew Patterson.” One Matt, sick of misdirected emails, had emailed us all to “sort this out.” An admirable but doomed attempt; I still receive emails for another Mat(t)hew who is really into parasailing.

This Could Have Been an Email

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This Could Have Been an Email

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