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How do you address your customers?

Started by Rich, September 28, 2011, 05:28:52 pm

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When a customer gives you his name, it's usually first and last as in John Smith. Now, do you call him Mr. Smith, or John? Do you have a reason for doing it one way or the other? I have reasons for both ways;
Mr. Smith; 1-Shows respect for the customer.
                 2-Keeps the transaction on a professional level
                 3-Keeps the relationship from getting too friendly which could       
                    encourage the customer to expect "special" treatment as in a lower 
                    price, or "how about just throwing that in?".
                 4-Avoids overstepping in cases where a customer doesn't want to
                    be called by his first name by a stranger.
John; 1-Makes the customer feel like he is valued and not just another customer.
          2-Creates a  less-rigid environment.
Also, which way do you prefer to be addressed when you're the customer? Does it matter which type of business you're in at the time?
Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!


In the past I never thought much about it, but recently I make it a point to address people as "Sir" "Ma'am" "Mr." "Mrs." "Miss" You get the point. Obviously, there are those I feel comfortable calling by name, Friends, very frequent customers, Etc. I do it now though for 1. Showing Professionalism. 2. (and maybe most important) For my kids to see that they need to extend that respect to their elders and those in authority.
I'm not getting up on my soapbox here, but a lack of respect is gone from our culture, and where my kids go to school they really stress respect and discipline, so I figure the kids need to learn it by seeing me do it as well.


It really depends on the customer to me. If I feel comfortable with using first names I generally will. I'm no kid and I don't loose any respect for people but being on a friendly basis. If there is a customer that I feel might wish not to be called by their first name as in a woman I will use Ms. or Mam. I don't like these as it makes the conversation feel stiff to me.
  I don't mind being called Paul, Mr. Minichillo, Sir but prefer Paul. That goes with anyone.
Minichillo's Upholstery


Kyle makes a good point that children should be taught respect. When I was in school and the boy scouts it was always Mr. or Miss.

I think different parts of the country treat this subject in different ways. I was born in Michigan and don't remember ever calling my father sir, it was always just dad. When we moved to Florida in 1969 I was taken aback a little at how parents stressed yes sir and yes ma'am.

When I'm on the phone with a new customer usually the first thing they do is give me their name (first and last) and I quickly write it down. At the end of the conversation I get their number and repeat their name to make sure I got it right.

When I meet them in person I offer my hand look them in the eyes and give them my first name. They usually do the same. This sets us up on a first name basis.

Like your second point Rich, I try to make my customers feel like my friends.

I think the older I get and the more my customers age and mine become the same the more I'm apt to be on a first name basis.

Having said that, I will address some one as Mr or Mrs if they are closer to my moms age (70's or older) out of respect. Also if someone addresses them self as "Dr. Smith"  I will use that tittle also out of respect.

When I'm dealing with a professional in my home I prefer they use my first name.
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.


I almost always address my customers by first name yet I use yes sir / yes mam quite a bit in conversation- probably from being in the Army. Like mentioned above, if someone refers to theirself as Mr or Dr .... then I use that title. I prefer to be called by first name because "Mr" sounds old and I am in denial! ;D

We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction.
Douglas MacArthur


I don't have a problem as within 30 seconds I have forgotten their names anyway :)


I don't address my customer, I leave that to my buffer.
My buffer is a redhead and she vets my calls and screen the bad apples from the good one.
I'm a bench guy and that's were I excel, I do what I do for the people that want my expertise and I love doing what I do...

So I do not like to talk to customers, that's not my thing, that's why I have a redhead...do not be afraid to delegate, at the end it's all worth it.

I tried being a waiter once...they made the mistake asking for something not on the menu...
That was my first and last of that experience, I understood then my limitations of dealing with the general public"
I bleed, sweat and spit tacks for a living, so my tolerance threshold is rather limited.

To all of you, we do hard work and very stressful, we always have to be at the mercy of the fabrics they dump on us to make it splendidly beautiful.
We are treated with contempt because we work with our hands, we are frown upon because we strip a chair and go down to the bare dusty guts.
Wake up and be proud, we are a dying breed of hard worker and we ought to give it to ourselves not to take any %$@*^#@ from anyone
so mote it be


I'm with Paul:  it depends.  I usually call people by their first name (I think I'm the oldest one on the board, so most folks are fine with it.)  Certain folks that I think of as "courtly", I refer to by their title.


I genuinely enjoy the public.  Sometimes they get on my nerves but for the most part I'm able to find something "in common" with them.  And when I encounter a dink I tend to take the position that they're on this earth for my own personal amusement.  I am polite by nature and tend to err on the side of formality; esp. with people older than I.  I have been told that I am very businesslike on the telephone.  When I return a call I always ask, "May I please speak with so and so", I never presume the person on the other end of the line is the person who left the message.  I always introduce myself and get right to the point.  If we make an app't. the last thing I do is confirm the app't. date and time and make sure I have the proper number to contact them in the event of an emergency cancellation. 

I do a nice alteration/tailoring business and frequently deal with older, "well-heeled" women and many of them prefer to be addressed as, Mrs. So and So.  I wait for them to say, "please call me Margorie".  One woman, in particular, remarked that it was nice to encounter someone who called her, Mrs..  I have never forgotten her and I never called her by her first name in all the years I did work for her.  Her Christmas cards to me were always signed, Mrs. So and So.  She was delightful and I miss her. 

Generally, though, I take my cue from the person seeking my service.  You develop a feel for how to speak with them.  And you develop a feel for what sort of banter is OK and what isn't.  Polite is good! and polite opens many doors no matter where you are in the world!


Quote from: scottymc on September 29, 2011, 03:18:52 am
I don't have a problem as within 30 seconds I have forgotten their names anyway :)

Man, ain't it the truth! I've had customers leave my shop.....walk 5 feet out of my door.....turn around and walk back in. I say "May I help you?" as if I've never seen them before in my life.

I usually refer to a customer as "Mr., or Mrs. Jones"
But if they e-mail me asking for a price, I respond with "Hi Bob" instead of the formal "Mr.".

Everyone calls me by my first name. Even kids.

I've noticed that many kids now refer to adults as "Miss Sue", or "Mr. Tom".

I've been married 34 years, and STILL don't know what to call my wife's parents. I've managed to avoid formaly adressing them all this time.
"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


In this area addressing a customer as "Hon", "Sweetie", or any other such terminology that is considered just fine in the southern part of the country is considered insulting by many customers in the Midwest.


Quote from: BigJohn on October 21, 2011, 04:35:33 am
In this area addressing a customer as "Hon", "Sweetie", or any other such terminology that is considered just fine in the southern part of the country is considered insulting by many customers in the Midwest.

That terminology is common here in Texas. But I do find it a little strange when a girl waiting on me at a fast food place that's over 30 years my junior refers to me as "sweetie".
"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban


October 21, 2011, 04:46:54 pm #12 Last Edit: October 22, 2011, 02:32:59 pm by byhammerandhand
I think a lot of it depends upon the age and region.  

I live in a border area.   One of the guys that works where I do regular work is from the south side of the river and always uses "Yes, Sir," and "No, Sir."    Having only passing acquaintance with the military and having never lived in the south, this always puts me a little ill at ease.   When I met my wife, she was a Jr. High teacher in Virginia.  Her observation was, "Just because they say, 'Yes ma'am' and 'No, ma'am' does not mean you are  getting any respect."

After I'm feeling really old because I got my "Golden Buckeye Card" (senior  citizen's discount card), one of my clients last week kept calling me "Young Man."  I would call them Mr. and Mrs.

I think most people my kids' ages would be uncomfortable being called Mr. or Mrs.  Heck, two of my sons-in-laws are doctors (one M.D. and one Ph.D.)   I have never heard anyone ever call either of them "Dr."

My credo is, (and I hate it when I get this at the fast food places)
"There ya go" is not "Thank you."  and
"Uh-huh," is not "You're welcome."

Another rule is "Never speak military to civilians."
So I'd never say something like, "I need tp pull the Pli-Grip so I can inject some PVA in that mortise and tenon."

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison


Regarding 'speaking military to civilians - specifically at 1:40.


I will call someone Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith if that is how they introduce themselves to me.

For some reason, I can tell the difference between folks who learned "Yes sir and No sir", in the military versus in prison.




I grew up in northern New England in a time when men frequently referred to women as, "dahlin'", "honey", "sweetie", and meant no disrespect by doing so.  It was a sign of affection and recognition that you were part of a very small, cohesive community.  Probably because of that, I've never really been bothered/insulted by such terms.  I can tell the difference when some fool uses such diminutives in a demeaning way and I generally "take the  high road" and ignore the ham-handed attempt at an insult.  Occasionally I deploy my intellect and make absolutely sure the offender is left wondering who actually had the upper hand in the encounter.  ;)  It's not usually very hard with that sort of person...

My mother particularly resented being referred to as, "honey", "dear", etc. by nurses and other hospital staff.  I would quietly tell them that just because she was under their care did not mean that she was a child and that she didn't like the use of such "familiar" terms of endearment, particularly by perfect strangers, regardless of the intimacy of their interaction.  Frequently, the staffers were surprised to learn that.  I suspect because they were quite young (mid-twenties and on) and had not been raised in a time when more formal etiquette was the accepted norm for children and young people in general. 

I have enjoyed this discussion very much.  Such fun to learn about social mores in more distant parts of the of the country.