“And may I take your first name as well please, sir?”
“Thank you, David. I will pass along your details and someone will be in touch with you shortly.”
Contact centre representatives are in the human business. They are responsible, on a daily basis, for the communication of callers’ requests, inquiries, demands and concerns to the company whom they represent. As a result, call handlers must take down, among other things, a caller’s name.
Callers oblige and give representatives their details primarily because it will otherwise be more difficult for the company they were calling in the first place, to get back in touch.
Crucially, your callers do not provide their details for the benefit of the customer service representative. So, when representatives then use this information to refer to callers by name, are they over-stepping some invisible line? The caller did not give permission for the representative to use their name, only to pass it on to the person with whom they wish to speak.
Are contact centre representatives taking liberties when they use callers’ first names without permission?
A matter of formality
For the most part, the average caller will not openly object to a customer service representative using the name they just gave them.
However, both callers and representatives can feel uncertain about the proper way to address a caller in the twenty-first century. Use of a person’s first name can create a sometimes-uncomfortable sense of over-familiarity and informality. In particular, older demographics are less likely to be comfortable with this.
On the other hand, addressing a caller as “Mr. Smith,” when he just told you his name is David may change the tone of the phone call, imposing on it a sense of formality that may not have existed before.
Representatives risk alienating callers if they make assumptions about how the caller would like to be addressed. This situation risks taking callers out of their comfort zones. At best, this may lead to an awkward phone call when the caller politely asks the call handler to refer to them as Mrs. Brown rather than Denise. At worst, Mrs. Brown might express anger at the call handler and her relationship with the company she was calling in the first place might be ruined.
A matter of preference
Caller preference cannot be ascertained through guess-work. While it is typically older callers who prefer to be addressed by their title, agents cannot discern a caller’s age or inclinations from hearing their voice or asking their age.
The safest thing to do, it is often agreed, is to ask callers how they would be prefer to be addressed and then do as the caller asks. This way, the agent and the caller both know where they stand without any potentially awkward moments or uncertain gaps in communication.