What’s your real name?

In 2010, NBC aired a sitcom called “Outsourced” that portrayed the life and times of an outsourced call center in India.  While the show only lasted one season, I found it to be quite entertaining and insightful in thinking of cultural differences when another culture serves the American consumer.  One of the funny realities was the Indian names that didn’t translate well.  In particular, one character had the name “Man Meat.”  I apologize in advance if you don’t find that funny but I recon if my name was “Man Meat” I might consider changing my name when speaking with customers.

Phone.com CTO Alon Cohen  recently called a call center for assistance and the customer support professional answered the phone saying “Hello, this is Sunshine, how can I help you?”  Out of curiosity, Alon asked if this was her name and she indicated that “Sunshine” was in fact her real name.  If that really was her name, I would absolutely want her on my team.  Is there any better name for customer service?

In my experience, the topic of using “real names” comes up for a variety of reasons in customer service.  A couple that come to mind:

  • A customer service agent fears for their safety and wants to mask their real name.  I have encountered this specifically when we asked agents to use their last name in email correspondence.  To date I have never seen the use of a last name backfire and threaten the life of one of our employees.
  • Some names are difficult to pronounce and spell. Sometimes a “non-American” name can be confusing for customers to spell and it’s just easier to abbreviate, use initials or pick a different name.

Alon’s question to me and my question to you “Is the use of a fun pseudonym in customer service a viable way to make customers happy?”  In this instant, Sunshine seemed to brighten Alon’s day.  I tend to think that as customer service professionals, our real names should be the standard.  We should wear our names proudly and pseudonyms should really only be used in the presence of practical reasoning.

I have written many times about ownership and this is yet another case of ownership.  By attaching your name to a call, you are owning that encounter.  You are signing your name to it.   If you choose to attach a name like “Sunshine” to your call, that had better reflect your demeanor on the phone.

What are your opinions on this subject?  Have you ever used a pseudonym for the aforementioned reasons?  Do you currently use one?  If you are in charge of customer service, do you allow your team to pick pseudonyms?

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3 comments

  • HAHA I totally remember this show. The main character had my same last name.

    While we cannot all be named awesome things like Sunshine, it definitely puts a spin on the customer experience. But, Sunshine better provide AMAZING service to live up to that name!

    Another thing is that with unique names, it encourages the customer to remember not only the service they get, but the person. I get teased a lot by customers who remember me because my name is the “same as the girl in Forrest Gump”.

    Awesome post, Jeremy! If you could change your name to something, what would it be?

  • Thanks for reading my post Jenny. I’ll get back to you on alternate names for myself. I’m totally drawing a blank but I can guarantee it will be legen…. wait for it…. dary. Legenday!

  • To be honest, I’ve wanted to say my name was Martin, the Geico Gecko, and use the British accent while doing it.

    I used to use accents like that when I worked the drive-through in fast food, and the customers (and my managers!) loved it. I was told I sound just like the Gecko once, so as a gag, I started “offering” the customers to save 15% or more on their car insurance when ordering a Grande Meal (or something like that).

    Good times.

    Yours truly,

    Martin – I mean Tyler.

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