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How to Get Name Pronunciation Right in Business Dealings

When introduced to a business contact, make sure you pronounce that person's name correctly. If you don't determine the right way to say his or her name, you can ruin a good business relationship by mispronouncing the contact's first or last name over and over.

Get a new contact's name correct right from the start:

  1. If you have a notepad handy, ask the person to write out his or her name for you.

  2. Ask the person to say his or her name (if someone else didn't introduce the two of you).

  3. Repeat the name and ask whether you pronounced it properly.

  4. Write down the pronunciation of his or name phonetically next to or below the name in your notepad.

Share the correct spelling and pronunciation of business contacts' names with everyone in your business, especially those with whom the customer will work directly. It would be a shame to go to all the embarrassment of figuring out the correct way to say names only to have someone in finance, installation, or service get it wrong.

Everyone on staff represents the business, and if they get the name wrong, the business contact believes that you got it wrong. Distribute an e-mail message or typed memo to everyone who’s likely to be in contact with the customer or businessperson, and make sure it includes the following:

  • The correct spelling of the person’s first and last name

  • The phonetic pronunciation of the customer’s names

  • An indication of which is the first name and which is the surname (family name), if that might be confusing

  • The person’s gender (which may not be so obvious from the name)

Employees often complain that they feel extremely frustrated and embarrassed when they call a customer or contact and don’t know how to pronounce the person’s name, or whether they’re asking to speak to a man or woman. It’s up to you to clue them in.

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