This week a potential student reached out to The Iron Yard. I manage some incoming leads and distribute them to my team as needed. As I was writing the email to hand off this particular potential customer, I stopped when I thought about how to refer to him.
The email was to a single individual on my team and the likelihood that anyone else would ever see it is slim. Using informal language in that situation is common practice, so in my first drafted I typed out, “This guy is from…” After re-reading the email, though, something felt weird about saying, “this guy” even though I’ve used that language before (and there’s nothing wrong with it). I think the difference this time was that, for whatever reason, I asked myself how I like to be referred to and how the terms we use for people (and things) influence the way we think about them.
I believe that, over time, if I refer to our potential (or current) customers as “some guy” or “some girl” then I’ll tend to view them as just that. The reality is that they aren’t just some person, they’re a potential student looking to make a significant change in their life and likely putting a lot on the line as a result.
This week’s gut check was a good reminder to me to really think about the way I refer to our customers. Do my words reveal respect or indifference? Do they refer to real people or numbers?
The difference between “this guy” and “gentleman” seems small, but the aggregate impact of repeated use could have significant consequences for the better or worse.