What’s In a Name?

what's in a name


By Abigail Edwards

When my family and I walk into one of our favorite restaurants for dinner on a Friday night, there’s a sense of warmth that immediately puts me at ease. It’s a homey atmosphere that’s always bustling with activity but there’s always one thing reassuring me that I’m a welcomed customer: the waitress who recognizes us every time we come in. No matter what she’s doing, she’ll smile and wave, greeting us like old friends. It’s that familiarity and kindness that keeps us coming back. 

Both businesses and customers can get a lot out of knowing each other by name. Chester Santos, the “International Man of Memory”, says that when you can remember someone’s name, it shows them that they are important to you. This value gives the business a competitive edge in the market and in the minds of the consumers by establishing credibility and a sense of community that draws them to return again and again. 

It’s surprising how many people will sacrifice more money for a sense of belonging to go with their products and services. For example, anyone can pay twenty dollars or less at a walk-in establishment to get a good haircut but some are willing to pay up to five times that amount for a salon where the stylist knows their name and their story. I went to the same stylist for eight years, gladly paying more for both her quality and company.

Community can also create accountability. Gym members who struggle to maintain consistency in their attendance are more likely to keep coming back if they feel personally recognized and missed when they’re gone. One of my local fitness clubs actively calls members who are on their “Missing in Action” list, asking how they’re doing and if everything’s okay. These members are always pleasantly surprised to find out that the business was thinking of them and they often do return. 

Three generations of my family have gone to the same auto mechanic, not only because of the trusted quality and service that they provide but because they treat us like family. When my great grandma passed away, our mechanic came to her memorial service, surprising and moving us when she got up to speak for her. It’s that kind of business community that keeps us coming back. Everyone that we have referred has stayed with them too. 

I’m always impressed when I walk into a business I frequent and they call me by name. How do they remember my name among so many customers and how can I pay the kind, hardworking employees the same respect? Names are among some of the hardest things to remember, especially when you don’t see the other person frequently. Here are a few tips that have helped me remember names:

  • Repeat the other person’s name if they give it to you. Answering back with something like “Nice to meet you, John” will help you keep your focus and cement the name in your memory. Repeat it again at the end of your conversation when you say goodbye.
  • Focus on a particular feature of their face to associate with them. A trait like their small nose, large ears, unique hairstyle or freckles can be an anchor to their identity.
  • Connect the name with a mental image. If the name is Steve, imagine a large, hot stove with the letter E cooking in the pot. It’s a unique picture that will come to mind whenever you see Steve.

Practice makes perfect! There’s no shame in asking them to remind you of their name the next time you see them.

With so much competition across the marketplace, it can be hard to decide which businesses to frequent. When it comes down to it, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

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