It’s relatively easy to know what to call most people or groups of people – your coworkers, your classmates, your best friend, your roommate. But knowing what you should call your customers is a bit more difficult.
Some companies call their customers guests. Members, clients, patients, shoppers, readers, subscribers – there are so many names that customers go by in this technological age that many business owners don’t know where to start.
What should you call your customers? Does it depend on the industry you’re in?
What Should You Call Your Customers?
It does somewhat depend on what industry you’re in. A gym or any business that offers a membership probably refers to customers as members. A medical office or hospital refers to its customers as patients. Hospitality industries – restaurants, hotels, etc. – call customers guests. Many B2B and some B2C companies call customers clients.
First name basis?
On another hand, you may be wondering if it’s appropriate to refer to your customers by first name or by last name only. That, again, depends on the nature of the business you’re in and your relationship with the customer.
The first time you speak to a customer, you should always refer to them by last name and the preferred prefix – Miss, Mrs., Mr., or Dr.
Appropriate for first conversation:
- Hello Miss Smith, how are you?
- Hi Mr. Smith, how may I help you?
If you’ve repeatedly engaged with a customer and have developed a rapport, you may feel comfortable calling them by their first name. However, make sure you test their response before calling them by their first name. Ask what name they prefer to be called by and stick to the answer they give.
Customer service: “Miss Smith, is there any name you prefer to be called for future reference?”
Customer: “Yes, please call me Lucy!”
What’s more important than what you call customers?
When it comes down to it, it seems that what you call your customer doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you treat and support them.
While it may be beneficial to have your customers think of your business as a place they have an exclusive membership to (it could make customers more likely to be loyal over the long-term), being called a member alone won’t make them stay with you.
But being treated like a member – with special perks, amazing customer service, and discounted pricing – will make them more likely to stay with you.