My name is...

Not sure whether there has been an instruction to bank, electricity and telecommunications customer service representatives to use your given name early and as often as possible in some misguided attempt to build rapport and relationship with the customer. 

There are a number of assumptions the organisations make when they do this. I was asked the question during a training workshop on whether using the given name was an effective technique to build rapport. My response was only to use the given name after you have been given permission to do so and only in response to “how would you like to be addressed?’

I was told by a person from Zambia that in a lot of the African nations it was not appropriate and in fact offensive to use the given name. She explained that in her culture anyone older than her would be addressed as Uncle or Aunt preceding their first name as a sign of respect. When they are not well known then the person’s first name is often preceded by a title of some description.  

This is similar to other cultural groups including Pasifika & Maori culture where there are clear norms around addressing an individual dependent on their age and status.  For elderly people who have grown up with the concept of using Mr and or Mrs and variations around this, having someone who they don’t know automatically use their first name, can be at best irritating and at worse, upsetting.  

In the context of de-escalating a complaint or concern it is important to be consciously aware of strategies to build respect, rapport, and trust. In the work I do training and coaching individuals and organisations on early resolution techniques I stress the importance of language and the power of using words and phrases to understand the ‘other’.  It really struck me how we have organisations have come to assume it is okay to use a given name without taking the step of ensuring that it is okay to do so and what impact this might have on the person.