I was in the self checkout line at my neighborhood grocery store when one of the checkers came up and said, “Did you find everything, Hoss?” Did he really call me “Hoss”? Yes, he did. We’ve all had other people call us by various names, including Sweetie, Buddy, Pal, Young Man, Young Lady, Dude, Bud, Honey, Bro, and yes Hoss. We use pet names as signs of affection and we use them out of habit. The problem is, in the workplace, pet names are really inappropriate. Of course, if I go into a surf shop, I fully expect to be called “Dude”. There certainly are times and places where pet names are entirely appropriate, but in general, they shouldn’t be used in a business environment. The reason is because you don’t know the other person well enough to know how such a casual nickname might affect them. “Sir” and “Ma’am” are usually acceptable.
As with most rules, there are exceptions. Certainly, there’s context, such as in the surf shop example I mentioned previously. There’s another time when pet names don’t matter. Here’s the story: My wife Janet and I stopped in a sandwich shop to get a quick bite to eat recently. When we walked in, the man behind the counter was less than half our age and festooned with tattoos and piercings. (That only matters to help you see the contrast between him and me.) He said, “Dude, welcome!” I started to switch into my customer service trainer mode and was a little off-put by his excessive familiarity in calling me “Dude”. I realize, of course, that it’s just his habit and he certainly didn’t mean anything by it. Still, he was certainly excited that Janet and I had stopped in. We walked up to the counter and asked if he had any salads or soup. He replied, “Dude, I’ve got some great chicken noodle soup! You’re gonna love it! Would you like me to get you a bowl?” I was still slightly annoyed by him calling me “Dude”, but his excitement for the chicken noodle soup was infectious and I was starting to like him and feel good about our experience. So, I said, “Do you have a soup and salad combo?” “Dude, I can give you the lobster salad with the chicken noodle soup in a combo. It’s great! You’re gonna love it, Dude!” I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs, “I’ll have the combo with the fabulous chicken noodle soup and the lobster salad!” His passion and excitement had gotten to me and I was excited for the chicken noodle soup and lobster salad at the chain sandwich shop! Not only that, but I ceased being annoyed by him calling me “Dude”. Janet and I sat down and started to enjoy our lunch when he came out from behind the counter and said, “Dude, I forgot to give you the croutons and cheese. Your salad is even better with croutons and cheese!” “Yes! We get croutons and cheese with our salad!” I was thrilled beyond words over croutons and cheese for my salad, all because he was so excited and passionate about the products he was offering us.
You see, what really matters in customer service and, frankly, in our relationships with each other is our passion for what we have to offer. Rules certainly have their place and they’re usually based on sound principles, but in the end, what really matters is our enthusiasm for creating a great experience for our brothers and sisters in the human race. Find a way to be excited about the products and service you offer to your customers. Realize that, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, the product or service you offer can help make your customer’s life better. That’s something to be excited about! When we have that kind of enthusiasm and passion, we just naturally provide great customer service.
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