We’ve become much more informal when speaking with one another, to the point of using first names almost exclusively. Years ago it was the norm to call anyone older than yourself by a courtesy title such as Mr., Ms., or Mrs. These days if you call a support line for assistance, the representative will call you by your first name.

And of course, we all understand the first name “warmth” factor in a one-on-one friendship or family relationship.

However, at Centratel Answering Service, we are not “family” with our clients and callers, and we are certainly not “best friends.” We’re a professional communications office, and clients with whom we deal with every day also operate from professional offices. So, we almost always use last names…

Exceptions are limited to technical on-call people including nurses.

So, keep in mind, we’re not friends OR family. We’re a professional office and we have to boil things down in a friendly, business-like way. We fit into the category of a secretarial and/or dispatch center.

This “last name” -methodology applies to our customer service and management people, too. Below are some basic guidelines we follow in addressing our clients and callers:

  • Male callers, other than doctors, will be referred to as “Mr.” unless the caller or customer assertively asks to be addressed by their first name.
  • Female callers are to be referred to as “Ms.” unless they specify otherwise or if you have a solid indication that “Mrs.” is in order.
  • If in doubt about someone’s gender, DO use their first name.
  • For regular clients, it is OK to use first names for technicians or on-call personnel. If the owner is on-call, use the formal title as noted above unless they specifically request otherwise.
  • If the individual specifies how they are to be addressed, that request will always take precedence.
  • “Dr. Steve” is OK if that is what the physician insists. Otherwise, never refer to a physician by first name or by “Mr.”
  • It is OK to ask the caller or client how they wish to be addressed i.e. “Do you mind if I call you Ms. Johnson?”

Note: Centratel CEO and international business consultant Sam Carpenter has written extensively on the concepts of system improvement and the systems mindset. Centratel’s HVAC Answering Service assists hundreds of heating, ventilation and air conditioning businesses during and after-hours, throughout the United States and is, by a variety of statistics, the highest quality answering service available among the approximately 1,500 services nationwide.

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