Call me Madam – Part 1

Have a Nice Day

Hot on the heels of a recent piece in which I made passing mention of the annoyance of cold callers, the issue of ‘cold caller chumminess’ was addressed in a poll published this week.

As we have all known for a long time (‘Have-a-nice-day’ Americans excepted), British social behaviour and interaction doesn’t really run smoothest when strangers are over familiar with us.

Cold callers and customer service departments such as those in banks come in for the heaviest criticism, with half of all people questioned preferring to be addressed as Mr/Mrs/Miss.

Even hard-working waiters and waitresses at restaurant chains do not escape reproach with 10% saying they dislike their false chumminess.

The survey of 1,000 people was commissioned by Ask Jeeves. A spokesman said ‘There is nothing wrong with friendliness but it just doesn’t wash when it comes from someone you have never met or even spoken to.

‘Often these are people who are trying to sell you something and who have no other interest in you, yet they treat you like a long-lost pal. Jeeves was a well brought-up butler, he would never have dreamt of saying to Wooster ‘Hiya Bertie, how’s it hanging?

‘Britons are saying “enough is enough” and do not think it is old-fashioned to demand a bit of respect and to be called Mr, Mrs, or Miss by cold callers, sales staff and others.’

As we know, business and social etiquette has become more relaxed in recent decades but school/college leavers still break long held social codes at their peril. For this reason, I always include something about how to address the prospect/decision maker in any sales or customer service induction courses. I get the group to consider the sector they’re selling to (eg conventional versus modern or progressive) as well as the status/rank of the contact they may be dealing with.  Certainly a respectful tone and polite manner never goes amiss, though I do stress that no one ever bought from a salesman because (s)he sounded subservient.

Whether they are expecting a prospect to spend money with them by directly selling or merely representing their company in a customer-facing role, basic rules of business etiquette need to be highlighted to young or inexperienced recruits. Simply because any perceived unprofessional behaviour costs business.