I recently had a call with a representative in the billing department of a vendor who provides technology services to my business. Before I go any further, think of the expected tone of a customer service interaction in regards to technology. I expect a professional communication.

While the representative was very polite and helpful, she called me sweetie three times in a five minute call. I don’t know if any or you have had a similar close encounter where you were referred to as sweetie, honey, or darling. Particularly if you are female, my guess is unfortunately that YES you have.

I looked up the word sweetie on Google and came upon an amusing graphic defining the word: A word of endearment used in the south that is used to express your love for another. In customer service keynotes and customer service training, I often emphasize how important it is that your customers know you love serving them…. but this expression of love might go a bit too far even in the south!

As a business professional, being called anything but my name is a total turn-off. Let me provide some adjectives to describe such a verbal encounter:

  • Unprofessional
  • Condescending
  • Disrespectful
  • Immature
  • Uninformed
  • … and the list could go on and on and on!

We sometimes forget how the nuances of face-to-face and telephone interactions can impact the impression of a business. My interaction was business to business, but I would suggest that even a retail holiday shopping excursion with this type of greeting could be off-putting. No matter your type of business or customer served, be sure to discuss choice of words with your staff, even to include why NOT to use certain words in a customer close encounter. The danger for a service provider in a customer service interaction is that the reaction can vary from one customer to another and it is too dangerous to risk being perceived in a negative light due to a too casual communication style.

Let me know what you think and whether I am being too sensitive! If you can think of any titles I forgot that can be negatively received, share them with us in the comments section below.

Oh and I hope all you darlings have a great day!