For the past five years, my mobile phone provider has been misspelling my name. It’s not a big deal; they have retained my business and have seen me through a couple of upgrades. But that usurping ‘B’ at the end of my surname – still present after several attempts of stressing that, actually, it’s ‘V’ for Victor – never fails to catch my eye. It’s just one tiny slip, a forgivable proximity on the keyboard. And yet, to me, it looks plain wrong. It does not belong there between the introductory ‘Dear’ and the somewhat faux sentiment that is: ‘As our valued customer…’.
For companies who value their customers, writing names correctly makes marketing sense. Not everyone can ‘do a Starbucks’ and have their hastily scribbled-on coffee cups turn into a comedic viral sensation. (Check out the twitter hashtag #starbucksfails for some delightful and bizarre examples.)
Of course, responsibility also lies with the name-bearer. At some point they will have to provide the information that confirms whether they are indeed a Catherine, a Katherine or a Kathryn. However, there are options out there if, for whatever reason, these nuances are not immediately apparent. We can research online, double-check past correspondence and, if appropriate, even ask directly. Better to get it right than to simply assume and get it wrong.
Such thoroughness should not be limited to direct communication with a client. Imagine an annual report where some pages refer to a board member’s name as Dr Stephens while on others he appears as Mr Stevens. Not only does this have the potential to irk Stephens / Stevens, but it also signals a lack of attention to detail that will send out the wrong message to readers of the report. Speaking of wrong messages, the other, more technical, advantage of accurate spelling is that you can avoid a panicked hour worrying about whether firstname.lastname@example.org has received that confidential email that was intended solely for email@example.com.
It’s no surprise that brands are increasingly looking for ways to personalise their products and content – whether that’s a jar of Marmite with your name on it, or a digital advert that speaks directly to you. But it doesn’t have to be this flashy. Even if it’s just a regular phone bill, when it comes to names, it pays to get it right.