What’s In a Name?

name sticker

Back in 2008, 19-year old George Garratt had his name legally changed to “Captain Fantastic.” Well, technically his full name is now “Captain Fantastic Faster than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine the Hulk and the Flash Combined.” I’m not sure what the current longest name on record is; but, at the time, Captain Fantastic was thought have captured the title. He told the London Telegraph he made the change in order to be “unique.”

Regardless of what you think about this man’s decision, there’s no doubt that names are important. Your name is the first gift you receive and, unless you choose to change it, it’s yours until the very end.

My full name is Ronald Scott Voland. I was given my father’s first name, though I’ve always gone by Scott. It’s what those who know me recognize. It’s what I respond to. When someone calls out “Scott” it catches my attention. Even in a large crowd, I can discern the sound of my name from the rest of the noise. My name is my identity.

Knowing – and using – my name is an indication of familiarity. Calling me by name means that you have some understanding of my value as an individual. It means you respect me enough to address me using my chosen identity. Not knowing my name, or choosing not to use it, communicates the opposite. It means I am unfamiliar to you. I am an unknown. We have no relationship.

We have any number of ways to identify our customers. We have account numbers, receipt numbers, invoice numbers, case numbers, and transaction numbers. To help organize and process information on volumes of people, we develop systems of identifiers – numbers – that allow for better manipulation of data.

But none of these matter to the customer. Because a randomly assigned number doesn’t communicate relationship. These numbers weren’t chosen with the same love and care as the customer’s name. A number means I’m just one of the crowd. A number doesn’t carry the history that my name does. That number can’t hold a lifetime worth of experiences and hopes and dreams. You can’t possibly understand who I am by looking at a number. You can only understand who I am by knowing my name.

Last week I challenged you to focus on greeting your customers with a smile. This simple act opens the door to a healthy, positive interaction.

This week, I’m asking you to pay special attention to names.

  1. Listen when a new customer gives you their name. Did they go by their first name? Middle name? Something different? How is it pronounced? Could you repeat it back to them properly?
  2. Use the customer’s name during your interaction. Studies show that the brain releases key chemicals when we hear our name. These chemicals help us focus on what’s being said and aid in the retention of information.
  3. Greet the customer by name. In a world where we’ve all been reduced to a number, you may shock some people. But you’ll also build the relationship.

I don’t plan on changing my name any time soon, although I do think “Captain Fantastic” is pretty cool. I’ll stick with Scott. That’s my name. Feel free to use it any time.

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