Automattic Life Talking Support

Talking Support: Names are Important

With nearly 30 years of experience working within support, I want to share a number of simple discoveries that I’ve made about how it can be improved.

So, let’s talk about names.

A customer or client contacts you – what name do you use for them in your reply? Well, the basic rule here is never assume – if they’re called Victoria, for example, never then refer to them as Vicky. Use what’s available to decide – if it says Victoria on their email but they use Vicky in their signature then you’re safe to use the latter. If the signature is missing then you should use Victoria. If you’re at all unsure, don’t use their name at all.

As somebody who is named David and doesn’t like to be called Dave, this is important to me. IRL, I also don’t assume names. A few years ago, a young man moved into the team I was working in. Everybody called him Pete – both in his previous team and in my team. However, I actually asked him what he preferred to be called – he told me Peter. So, I became one of the few people in the company to actually call him Peter.

I strongly believe too that the little touches are equally important and make the difference. If their name has an accented character in it – use it. I’ve just dealt with a support ticket from somebody named Fränk. When replying, it’s tempting to simply type this as ‘Frank’ and, to be honest, he probably wouldn’t mind – he’s used to it, I suspect. But, you know, actually typing his name out correctly, because it’s often forgotten about, might make the difference to him. Good customer support suddenly becomes excellent customer support.

Let’s address how to type these out – I’ve heard this as an excuse before (“how do I find it on my keyboard?”) but bearing in mind it’s in his email signature and elsewhere in the support ticket screen, a simple cut and paste is the easiest solution – in fact, it can often be quicker than actually just typing their name in, sans accented characters.

One of my colleagues in the VIP team is Stéphane. I think I’m one of the few people to type it out correctly (or, as I did there, cut/paste it from elsewhere), including amongst his fellow co-workers. But, to me, that’s important – your name is your identity and it should matter to everyone else that it’s used correctly.

Talk to me!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.