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"honey", "sweetie", "darling"? "I will", "I can do

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#1   Posted: 31 Jan 2008 11:10

In the world of Customer Service communications, is the use of "terms of endearment" considered appropriate? If so, what if only one member of the service team does this and the remainder choose not to? Does that make a difference. Please don't say geog. location makes a difference.

What is the viewpoint on the use of the word "I" vs "We" in speaking to customers? Does it imply a more narrow range of service that only "I" can provide, thus making all other CSR feel less important?

We have a small CS staff of four, so all hear these comments from one person. All four CSR have communications with customers on an equal basis. Thanks for any assistance.

#2   Posted: 31 Jan 2008 13:30

Hi pamkir,

I like to hear my team use "terms of endearment" with customers. I know they only ever use them where and when appropriate, ie., when they know the customer well. I've never had anyone complain about it. Everyone on our team has a their own approach and style with customers and it seems to work well.

Regarding "I" versus "we" -- again I prefer a more familiar approach. "I" works best as it implies the team member is taking personal responsibility for the customer's wellbeing.

It wil be interesting to hear other people's views on this.


#3   Posted: 31 Jan 2008 13:45

Sorry, but geography IS a factor.

I lived in the upper midwest for over 40 years. Never once was I honeyed or sweetied (except by an intimate).

I'm darlinged (or rather darlin'd) all the time when in Texas. I'm sweetied, honeyed and deared at least 10 times a day here in the South.

And...I like it, although I can't do it. Probably just a time's hard to undo 40 years, but to me it feels and sounds false coming from me.

As to the I vs. We...I hear you, except on the question of it how it might make other CSRs feel. For me it's more a matter of the idea it puts in the customer's head. Saying "I can do..." rather implies that the organization cannot. Then again, there are times when I feel that "I" is the appropriate response. For example, when I'm working with an angry customer who feels as though he/she has been getting the run-around. In those instances, the "I" implies just exactly what I mean for it to...the buck stops here / I'm taking responsibility to get this thing resolved.

On another level, I tend to use "I" more as a manager than as an individual contributor. And usually the reason again is problem solving with a customer. At times the customer needs to understand that I can resolve an issue in this manner because of the level of their complaint and that I'm the manager. But this is a very delicate line as I don't want them escalating any/every petty thing, or thinking that I am now their de facto go-to person.

It's said that business is not personal. Bull-crappy, sez me. I actually want it to be personal. If it's personal, then I'm passionately and emotionally involved. I do better work...I care. And when the tables are turned and I'm the customer, I want the service provider to be passionate about his/her work as well.

If what you are dealing with is really that one CSR says "I" and the other CSRs get offended, I submit that there is actually a greater underlying angst that is making the others feel less important.

I don't know if any of this will be helpful or not. As always, take what you want and leave the rest!

Best regards,

#4   Posted: 5 Feb 2008 06:16

Thank you for the responses. I'm of the more exec. world working in a more informal atmosphere as Manager and want to accept trends. To have one rep use the term "I" rather than "we" most of the time in all dealings does seem to skip over rank and demote other CSRs who are not comfortable doing this.

Likewise, the use of "hon" and "darlin" can rub some the wrong way, but is it really harmful enough for me to make an issue out of it as mgr even though I question its professionalism and use. I do not prefer to be addressed as such and I grew up in the south. If it's flirting and only used for men, I feel it is inappropriate in the workplace.

#5   Posted: 8 Feb 2008 02:53

I do agree, I'm from Australia and work in Financial Services. I have to say I hate the word "can" I have a saying I use whenever I hear one of my staff using this word..."you can't can do anything, But you may do everything" the message is the word "may" has so much more polish when communicating over the phone. In relation to the other words referred to even if the relationship is more informal there does need to be boundarys, I think you can still have close informal relationships using professional communication ( albeit less formal ),

#6   Posted: 12 Feb 2008 20:04

Pamkir,I don't know how one rep saying "I" instead of "we" oversteps and demotes anybody. It depends on what we are talking about.

I was born in the north and later worked in the south. "Uh huh" as "you're welcome" is NOT rude, as you will remember. If these employees are speaking to a range of people that are not in tune with one speak versus another, then have the service group foster a plan to get the reps to realize that "uh huh" does not mean thank you everywhere in the nation, as some people might interpret it means" yeah, whatever, leave me alone" rightly or wrongly.

And whatever you do, please don't create immense waves over your question internally. You either want 4 people to provide a service or you want 4 people to be disoriented by an uproar. Someone needs to coach here.

As a rule, I think distance can still be pleasure and we don't need to use these words. But I wold want staff to be educated on the fact that this is the way people speak and not to receive the word sthat are part of lif ein that region as though they are being trespassed upon.

Pamkir, I don't know if someone was altogether unimpressed by someone's language within your group or what, but I am sensing an anxiety. Maybe just stipulate that this is how we talk to our sweeties close to home and this is how we talk to out customers who are not close to home, and let's assume for9the most part our customers are not sweeties, and we need to recognize that. All while not changing the fact that we may very well hear sweetie as we go through the drive-thru outside of work, for example.

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