I visited Pablo’s the coffee shop at the newly opened Best Western Premier Hotel in Hurlingham this past Monday. I’d been looking for a quiet place to sit and get some pending work out of the way and was curious to see what this new hotel had to offer. After being shown to a seat at the bar that was next to a power socket that I needed for my laptop, I was warmly welcomed by a waitstaff named Evans with such a genuine smile. He promptly asked what my name was and on telling him, proceeded to talk to me like a long lost friend, addressing me by name each time. After ordering some tea, one of his colleagues brought it round to my side of the bar and asked after my comfort. She too addressed me by name. I fleetingly wondered if they had some secret code thing going for I hadn’t seen them converse and here she was, magically appearing by my side addressing me by name.
So for starters, being a long serving practitioner in the customer service arena, I was very well aware of the ‘tricks’ they were up to and their deliberate intention to  address me by name to  make me, a complete stranger, feel at home. I was therefore rather surprised at why a warm fuzzy feeling was creeping up on me and why I was feeling like Bwana Evans and his team were my fast friends. The level of our conversation also lifted a notch, from staff-customer to friend-friend. And when at lunch time I wasn’t too sure exactly what I wanted to eat and Evans was trying to convince me to eat what he declared were simply marvelous chicken skewers, the conversation was such a friendly banter. I eventually passed over the recommendation and chose to have the soup instead. When clearing away my crockery, a new waitstaff who had come in on a different shift, asked me by name if I had enjoyed my meal. I was pretty impressed by their specific effort to create no barrier service. I am most definitely going to be a regular there.
So – what’s in a name? If the die-hard customer service professional in me was warmed by this encounter, what then? Why are names so special? Why is it said that the sound of one’s name is like music to their ears? What makes a name so special? Daniel Scocco captures this quite adequately when he posits  that “There is one word, that would catch your attention even if it was uttered by someone far away, passing through your filters (well, one word except “Fire!”). It is your name. That’s right; your name is the most important word in the universe for you. Did you ever turn your head involuntarily to someone that uttered your name, only to find out that he was actually calling someone else? When that happens to me I just think “Oh, another Daniel.” It is a weird experience nonetheless.”

So there you have it – your name is magical. You love it. It makes you feel important. People who get it right assume a new level of importance in your life. And the common wisdom that postulates that you need to treat the customer as you’d like to be treated, directly translates into addressing your customers by name. Make a specific deliberate effort to remember your customers’ names. 
Many people profess that they have difficulty in retaining and remembering people’s names, but as we say in customer service, if something is important to your customer and as a result therefore important to your business, then you will make a special effort to get it done. If this means using all the tricks in the book (and indeed they are many – we can make this the subject of another blog post) to remember names, then so be it – do what it takes. Create that song, that music to your customer’s ears and address them by name, all the time. Then see what happens. I await your feedback.