Looking to start or expand your own business? If you’re sales, marketing, customer relations of human services, I’ve got an important business tip. Learn to pronounce client names. Investopedia listed customer relations one of the top 10 ways to succeed in business . If you’re going to relate to customers you must use names correctly.
Sound like a no-brainer? You’d be surprised how many people, even those who are (or proclaim to be) professionals, don’t do this simple thing. Why? Because they’re afraid of mispronouncing the name? Perhaps. But sometimes it’s just laziness.
Let’s say you have a customer with a name like mine: Marilisa Sachteleben. It’s an intimidating mouthful. Chances are, you’re going to mispronounce it the first time. I’d fall over backwards if you said it right without hearing it. People with difficult names understand.
The name might be ethnic, with differing pronunciations in different languages. Ours has is German and few Americans speak German.. But that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate it when you try.
Or that we don’t get tired of repeating it and it still being said wrong. How unprofessional. It tells me you aren’t paying attention if you still mispronounce after I said it. If you can’t be trusted with my name, why should I trust you with my business?
There is one simple way to know you’re saying it right. Ask the person to say it, listen carefully, then repeat several times. Ask them to correct you if you say it wrong. This helps me remember first names, too. I use it several times in conversation with the person.
Don’t be shy. Those of us with weird names would much rather you tried to say them than to use the lame “I won’t get it right so I won’t even attempt it.” That flies for one-time encounters or if you’ve not heard it said. But if you interact with us regularly, it makes us feel you don’t care.
Yes, it’s just a name. A rose by any name other would smell just as sweet, Shakespeare said. Inanimate objects, maybe, but peoples’ names have power. I harness that mojo substitute teaching. I made it a goal to learn the entire classroom of student names as quickly as possible. Kids respond and behave better. Saying “Justin (instead of kid in the red shirt) please show the class how to do this problem,” gets his attention and earns his respect (worked for me every time).
It works with adults too. I’ve watched wait staff perk right up when I call them by name. People like to be acknowledged as individuals, not mere generic drones. Ironically, I learned this trick from kids. Children typically say our last name correctly. In fact, the younger they are, the less trouble they have. I say it. They hear and remember. Some have even (loudly) corrected adults who say it wrong.