What’s in a Name

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Dale Carnegie is known to have said: “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Indeed it is. Good salespeople understand this precept and get it right. Good customer service staffers also recognize the importance of using, and not butchering, someone’s name. I’ve always tried to do my best in this area.

I once enjoyed a position that required my oversight of dozens of retail operations, as well as the 7 district managers charged with management of those stores. I worked hard to share this principle and continually used it in restaurants, as teaching moments, with those staffers. I consistently referred to the name of the host or hostess, the servers, the bussers, and management when speaking with them. Then, hours later, would ask my co-workers questions like:

  • “Nate, what was the server’s name?”
  • “RJ, which of those two ladies was the manager at that restaurant?”
  • “Jeremy and Jeff, do either of you recall where the busboy said he grew up? What was his name?”

They quickly grasped the intent of those lessons and became very adept at learning and using people’s names in ways they’d not previously done before. In short order, their individual store managers and staff members were following suit.

My wife frequently mentions my consistency in that area to others and shares that I work really hard to get it right. My efforts notwithstanding, I really blew it yesterday. Fortunately, it wasn’t terribly disastrous, but only because I was the customer. Regardless, the person that was assisting me was clearly irritated when I butchered her name.

The name on the handsome brass plaque on her desk clearly said “Eileen” but in my haste, I thanked her for assisting me and referred to her as “Ellen.” The moment she gave me a very pointed look of distaste and cast clearly negative body language signs in my direction, I recognized my mistake and quickly apologized. oops!

Fortunately, I wasn’t selling anything or working with a valuable client. I WAS THE CUSTOMER. No harm, no foul. Just awkward personal embarrassment.

People like to hear themselves referred to by name. You can as well. Make absolutely certain your customer-facing staff members understand: “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Steve…

Photo courtesy of Steve Fowler

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