Build rapport using names
Do you remember the TV series Cheers? And the theme tune “… where everyone knows your name”
Using someone’s name is a powerful way to build rapport.
According to Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” “… any person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. ….we can make people feel extremely valued and important by remembering the name.”
This is true, not just for customers, but your team members too; in fact, anyone you speak to.
However, sometimes it can be challenging to remember names. I remember about 20 years ago, the company I was working for at the time ran a series of Roadshows. At the time I was a management development executive at our international training centre. This meant that over the course of the year I would meet hundreds, if not thousands, of managers attending training.
Because I knew so many people I was asked to help with registration at each event, and because so many of those attending knew me, they made a beeline to me expecting me to remember them too. But when you have thousands of people registering at each event, it’s quite a challenge remembering everybody’s names, and some people got quite offended when I couldn’t remember who they were!
I learnt a little trick to get around this, which I’ll tell you about in a moment. But in the meantime, here are my other top tips for helping you and your team members remember and use people’s names.
- Start with your team, greet them by name, and use the name they want to be known by. So, if they have a preference to be known by their middle name, use this. Never shorten or abbreviate their name unless they ask you to. So, Andrew doesn’t become Andy, Christopher doesn’t become Chris, and Deborah doesn’t become Debbie, unless that’s what they request.
- Repeat it. How often do we ask someone’s name and then instantly forget it? So, listen with intent, and then immediately repeat their name. This not only helps you to committed it to memory, but allows an opportunity for the other person to correct it if you’ve got it wrong or missed pronounced. If the pronunciation is a little tricky for you, always ask the other person, whether you’ve got the pronunciation correct. It’s far less awkward for both of you to correct it now than on your fourth or fifth meeting.
- Can you spell that please? Spelling someone’s name incorrectly can feel insulting, so check the spelling if you need to. Even relatively common names often have more than one spelling; Cathy or Kathy, Iain or Ian, Philip or Phillip.
- Formal, friendly or familiar. It’s difficult sometimes to know whether to address the customer as Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms. or use their first name. The rule of thumb is to follow their lead; how they introduce themselves.
- Personalise your automation. Have you ever had a letter that’s addressed to you personally on the envelope, but the salutations reads “Dear Sir or Madam”. With technology today there should be no excuse not to address emails or letters with someone’s name (or at least the name they have given you).
- Create a memory. If you can create an association between someone’s name and a characteristic or relate to a famous person. For example, my husband is terrible at remembering names and when he first met my parents this was no exception. Their names were Liz and Phil. So, I told him to just think of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip!.
- Tags, cards and badges. Spotting name badges on luggage tags, payment cards or name badges at corporate events can help; a word of caution, don’t get too clever with this! Check the name their tag, card or badge is the one they want to be addressed by. If you know which customers you are expecting remind yourself of their names (and personal preferences if you know them) before they arrive.
- And what of employee name badges? They can make it easy for the customer to engage with and remember the people who have served them (as well as a level of accountability). But it’s a very individual decision, and what best suits your business and your style service. A name badge should never be a substitute for a personal introduction from a team member to a customer.
If you only do one thing – encourage your team members to use customers’ names, so they feel valued and important. Set the example and help make your team also feel extremely valued and important by always addressing them by name too.
And that little trick I discovered on registration? Thankfully, all the name badges were arranged in alphabetical order by people’s surnames. So, I’d always greet them with a cheery smile and ask how they are; and then ask absentmindedly “sorry, just remind me of your surname again”. It seemed forgetting their surname was acceptable, and when I found their name badge, hey presto, I was reminded of their first name too, and could then use this as I handed them their badge.