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Published:December 4th, 2007 12:10 EST
Build Customer Relations with Names

Build Customer Relations with Names

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

"Your Honor, I`d like to change my name."

"Change your name?" the judge replied. "And why is that?"

"Well, because people are always making fun of me," the gentleman explained.

"They make fun of you because of your name?" the judge asked. "What`s your name?"

"John Stinks," the man answered.

"Well, I can certainly see why folks would make fun of you, with a name like that. But, what do you want to change your name to?" the judge inquired.

Without a moment`s hesitation, the fellow replied, "Bill."

With few exceptions, most of us are not made fun of because of our names. In fact, quite often the very opposite is true. Our name becomes the means of receiving a subtle compliment through someone remembering and using it in conversation.

I was reminded of how nice it is for those in business to remember one`s name, when I spent a few days in Corpus Christi, during a speaking engagement. From the time I checked into the Omni Bayfront, I was "Mr. Sumerlin." It had a nice ring to it! It made me feel like a special guest of the hotel, and once again reminded me that there is no sweeter sound in any language than the sound of a person`s own name. So, I determined to renew my efforts at remembering names.

If you experience the same challenges here as I do, maybe a few suggestions will help. They are common sense ideas that may pay huge dividends to those who wish to build customer relations.

There is a German proverb that says, "A poor memory has its roots in poor attention." Nowhere is this more apparent than with names. Oftentimes we don`t forget a name. We never knew it to start with, simply because we weren`t paying attention when the name was given. However, a person who is serious about remembering names makes sure to get the name during the introduction, even if it involves asking for it to be repeated or spelled.

Having gotten the name during the introduction, then we must immediately begin using it in conversation. "Well, Ms. Burns, how long have you been in San Antonio? How do you spend most of your time these days, Ms. Burns?"

This serves as a compliment to Ms. Burns, but also as a means of fixing the name in the mind. However, one word of caution: Don`t overdo the use of the name. Once, while in a restaurant with my parents, the waitress was too obvious with our names. It became irritating to the point of sounding a lot like, "Can I get you anything else, Terry, before you leave me that huge tip?"

In addition to paying attention when we hear the name, and repeating it in conversation, there is one other technique we can use that helps with names: association. This involves some creativity and imagination. You might imagine your new acquaintance engaged in some activity (such as shaking hands) with another of your friends by the same name. Or, you could picture the person doing something suggested by the name (Baker, Carpenter, etc.). The possibilities are endless. However, the more ridiculous the mental picture, the more likely we are to remember.

Yet, even if we apply all these techniques, and more, we still need to make allowances for occasional lapses in memory. Here, the words of a fictitious judge are appropriate.

When the judge sentenced a 90-year-old man to 50 years, the man tried to reason with the judge by saying that he would not live long enough to serve out the sentence. The reply of the judge was, "Just get in there and do your best."

If we just do our best at remembering names, it might be an improvement over what we`ve been doing. And, it will certainly enhance customer relations.

BARBER-OSOPHY: A little extra time spent remembering names could mean a much longer relationship with customers.

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