Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: Names ARE A Big Deal

This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Jeremy Watkin writes about the importance of using your customers name, correctly.  I agree and believe that using a customers name enhances the customer experience. – Shep Hyken        

I have an ongoing issue that has been nagging at me for a while and I really need to get it off my chest.  First of all, you should know that the name given to me at birth is “Jeremy Watkin.”  That is the correct spelling of my name and there are no acceptable alternate spellings to my name.  I just needed to lay down those ground rules before proceeding.

As a guitar player, I have been loyal to one guitar manufacturer who I believe builds fantastic guitars at a terrific price.  I have been so loyal in fact that I have purchased four different guitars from them and referred many guitarists to them. Upon purchasing and registering my new guitar they would enter me into their CRM system and register me to receive their quarterly magazine.  The magazine really is a terrific publication and highlights the amazing craftsmanship of their instruments.

Shortly after registering my last guitar, I started receiving not one, not two, but three of their magazines each quarter!  The best part is that they were addressed to Jeremy Watkin, Jeremy Watkins and Jaremy Watkins.  Adding an “S” to the end of my last name is relatively common but the last one is just a bad misspelling.  I laughed the first couple times when I received three copies of the magazine and just gave the extra copies to friends.

After six months or so, I finally decided to call their customer service.  The representative said he fixed my problem but he didn’t.  I continued to receive three at a time.  I called customer service again and they said they fixed the problem and I can happily confirm I now only receive one magazine.  There’s just one problem.  The magazine is addressed to Jaremy Watkins!

There are a couple opportunities to learn from this story that I would like to highlight.

A Person’s Name Is Important- Dale Carnegie is famously quoted as saying “A person’s name to them is the sweetest sound in any language.”  Allow me to slightly modify that quote.  “Misspelling a person’s name or modifying a person’s name without their permission might sound like a swear word to them in any language.”

First Call Resolution Is Important- It is essential that you train your customer service team to resolve customer issues on the first call as much as possible.  Agents should take a few extra moments to check their work, review it with their customers and get it right the first time.  Failure to get it right the first, second or even third time may exasperate your customers and give them reason to go elsewhere.

Fixing The Underlying System Is Important- It’s entirely possible that there is a flaw in the company’s CRM system that needs to be addressed.  I should probably show up as one person owning three guitars rather than three slightly different people with the same address owning three guitars.

Names are a fundamental component to the customer service process and are critical to successful human interaction.  By referring to your customer by the correct name you communicate value to them and it’s one critical ingredient in building a deeper bond between that customer and your brand.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service for and is cofounder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.  The blog is focused on observing and learning from both good and bad customer experiences.  Follow Jeremy on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service insights.

  1. Part of the problem should be resolved by the mailing house. In my opinion, it is completely unacceptable to mail multiple copies of catalogs/promotional material to a residential address. Companies like Crate and Barrel, and Wine Country Gift Baskets have continued to mail me multiple catalogs for years. This affects my view of the brand (poorly run and not eco-friendly) and frustrates me to no end.

    From a operational perspective, you look like 3 people. Maybe the 1st “Jeremy” ordered in 2005, the 2nd in 2010 and the 3rd in 2013. Based on RFM you may not seem like a great customer. When combined, hopefully as Jeremy Watkin, they will recognize you as a highly valuable customer that should be treated as such.

  2. Jeremy, I love that Dale Carnegie quote. I once received a letter from a nonprofit with my first name written as “Jack” (it’s Kirt) along with my last name misspelled. Thank you for your excellent article.

  3. This is a critical subject Jeremy. Thank you so much for the article. It’s amazing how many service providers that get this wrong. It’s not rocket science! One of the most underrated concepts of customer service is treat others how you’d want to be treated. Everyone on the planet likes to hear their name being called or used, especially by a company they’re doing business with.

    For me it rises and falls on the leadership recognizing the importance of impressive customer recognition and then enforcing this practice to build a culture.

    I agree with you Eric. This practice is extremely environmentally wasteful not to mention financially irresponsible. I’m sure if many companies cut this kind of wastage they’d be amazed at the amount of savings they could make and possibly see a profit. This would make a great business case for the benefits of using sustainable practices to enhance Service Delivery.

  4. Customer Service is really the exercise of the most elementary rules in courtesy, respect and people relationship.

    Going the extra mile for Customers can strengthen relationships. When Customers are witness to your willingness to go the extra mile, they can sometimes even overlook occasional shortcomings. Its unfortunate that these elementary rules are practice more as an exception rather than a rule.

    Jeremy, your website is also a good read on Customer Service.

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