I hate to forget a person's name. There is probably nothing more rude in business than to forget someone's name, particularly if you have had to deal with them one-on-one. Years ago, when I was just starting out in business, I met a gentleman from Worcester, Massachusetts who attended one of our systems courses in Cincinnati. He was a nice guy and I actively worked with him during the class. Two weeks later, we held a customer conference in French Lick, Indiana where I happened to run into him again, this time on the golf course. My mind went totally blank as to what his name was, thus creating an awkward moment as we greeted each other (he, of course, remembered my name, but I was blocked). After some clever maneuvering, I finally got him to say his name which I instantly recognized. However, to make matters worse, I mispronounced the name of the town he is from which, if you are not from Massachusetts, is easy to butcher (look up "Worcester" in the dictionary and you'll see what I mean). All in all, I didn't score well in front of my customer that day. Consequently, I was determined not to let this happen again.
Following this episode, I started to take introductions more seriously and made a concerted effort to learn a person's name, how they liked to be addressed, where he or she was from, and their interests. At the time, I developed a Rolodex file with this information printed on it. If I had to leave my office and visit customers on their premises, I would be sure to take pertinent cards from the file with me. Today, of course, I keep everything in a Personal Information Manager (PIM) which I can take with me anywhere on a flash drive, but the principle is still the same. This little intelligence has served me well over the years and I have impressed many customers with what I remembered about them, even years later. It's not that I have developed a great memory, I haven't, it's just that I recognized the usefulness for remembering little details about people, cataloged them, either in my head or written down somewhere, and used it as needed to develop a good rapport with my clients.
Customers find it very comforting when such detail is remembered by their vendor. It gives them a sense of security that their interests are being maintained, which helps to develop trust and a bond between customer and vendor.
These days though, few people take the time to remember your name. As a small example, when you go to the drive-up window of a local bank, tellers are typically hospitable, but rarely do they take the time to remember your name. I hate it when they try to be pseudo-flirtatious with you when they don't know who you really are. No, it doesn't endear me to the bank.
It is these little observations that go a long way. As an example, perhaps the best secretary I ever saw was a lady named Myrna who worked for an I.T. Director in Chicago. The first time I visited the office, Myrna warmly greeted me and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. Saying Yes, she then asked me what I wanted in it. I said cream and sugar, which she then made for me. Months later when I returned to visit the I.T. Director, Myrna greeted me by name and presented me with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Frankly, I was startled that she not only remembered my name but how I also liked my coffee. Later I found out that Myrna also maintained a simple card file; whenever someone visited the office, Myrna would record their name and the type of coffee they liked. Sharp. Very sharp.
It's these little details that make a difference in customer relations. As Michelangelo said, "Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a listing of Tim's Pet Peeves, click HERE.
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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.