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Young woman pointing at a blank name tag

What’s In A Name?

Anyone who has gone out to eat with me knows that as soon as we are seated and the server comes to our table, the first three words out of my mouth are always, “What’s your name?”

I think years ago my two daughters were embarrassed by my question. But as they have grown older and wiser, I think they agree that by asking the server’s name, you establish a closer connection.

I’ve found 100% of the time that once I know the server’s name, I find ways to use it. I thank them for taking my order, for bringing me my drink, for refilling my water, etc. And with this more authentic, personal connection—using their first name—I always get better service. My party seems to get more attention and when we leave, it feels like we had a superior experience.

Sometimes, the server will ask me my name in return! That always catches me off guard, but when they use my name when addressing me, my positive experience is significantly increased.

So, that made me think, how could other businesses or positions leverage using someone’s name?

For example, when I go to the doctor, it would make a positive difference for me if the receptionist or nurse would introduce themselves: “Hello, I’m Sandra and I am the doctor’s nurse. I will be taking you to your examination room, but first I need to get your vitals.” Surely that’s a lot better than barking out my name from the waiting room and then, after a walk down a long hallway, them indicating to me to sit down to get my blood pressure taken or get my weight.

Or, when I arrive at a restaurant, wouldn’t it enhance my experience to have the person at the host station say, “Hello Ms. Caplan, so happy to have you with us this evening. I am Thomas and I am checking to make sure your table is ready. It will be my pleasure to take you there now! Please follow me.”?

Some organizations depend on name tags to do the job. Did you know that the proper side to wear your name badge on is your RIGHT side? That’s because when shaking a person’s hand it is easiest to read a tag/label on the right. Most people put it on the left side and oftentimes it’s covered by a lapel or long hair, making it difficult to read. And don’t get me started on those companies who put no thought into the typeface size or ease of legibility on name tags. But, why depend on a name tag? I think it’s better to properly introduce yourself verbally.

I went to a small holiday party last week and there were no name tags. The gathering was in a person’s home and there were only a dozen people. But some people were new to the group and others hadn’t seen each other for a long time. Frankly, I didn’t remember everyone’s name and had to whisper to a friend and ask. I personally think that even in these kinds of personal settings, it is a gesture of kindness to your guests to prepare name tags, if only with the person’s first name, printed in large, easy-to-read lettering. Then have guests apply it on the right side.

So, the next time you go someplace, try it out. Ask the persons’ name—no matter where you are. It will make them feel more important, and you will probably have a better experience.

“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  Dale Carnegie


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