Your Name, Pronunciation and the Bottom Line

A rose by any other name does NOT sound as sweet. Shakespeare, of course, in Romeo and Juliet said, a rose by any other name sounds as sweet. What he meant was that Juliet could have been called Fido and would have been as lovely to him. No so in business. How many times has a customer service representative mispronounced your name? Even if your name is Smith or Jones? I once heard a clerk on a phone say, “Thank you Mr. Jon-nes? ” giving the name two syllables. Then, I heard her recant and pronounce it correctly presumably because Jones, one syllable, on the other end, corrected her awkward pronunciation. My name runs the gamut in pronunciation – Bolling -ker, Billinger, Ballinger, Bollin[muffled[! Why is that? We Americans tend to be gun-shy of words, even names that sound foreign or are too long. Ah, but Jones? 

Yet, pronunciations of a name can affect the bottom line. Let’s say that every time you go to your bank, one particular teller makes a shambles of your name. Then, let’s say that a new bank opens up right across the street from your present bank. They are advertising some pretty good deals so you pop in to see for yourself what they can offer. The customer service rep carefully pronounces your name, slowly at first, because he asks if he has pronounced it correctly. That is refreshing to you, and you are impressed. A couple of more times at your present bank, a couple of more miss-handlings of your name and you make the decision to go with the other bank. Bottom line has been hit! The scary part is that you may not be the only customer who walks out the door. One wonders if managers or supervisors listen to staff talk to customers!

Personally, just before I was about to go into the hospital for minor surgery, the nurse from the surgeon’s office called me to remind me of some things. She mispronounced my name, again, and to make matters worse, could not figure out why I didn’t spell my first name, Leigh. I was under-impressed. I already had some misgivings about the surgeon at the two office visits I had had. I was in a dilemma. What if, I thought, my name gets put into hospital records the wrong way?; what if there is a major hand-up with my insurance claims because of it? How many other mistakes does this surgeon and his staff make on a regular basis? The doubts were too much, so I canceled the surgery. I told the office that I was not ready for the surgery and would call back. I have not done so.

The point here is that we only have our names. They are our true possession in life; it is true that some of us may not like the names and change them. It is also true that we do not like disrespect of our names. Whether it is Smith, Smythe, Schmidt or Jones or Bollinger (ger has the jer sound by the way), our names are all we really have. Banks and physicians’ offices should take heed.

Your name, pronunciation and the bottom line
By Lee Bollinger, Ph.D.

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