Remembering customers’ names may feel like a daunting task, but it can have a big impact on retention. Benjamin Levy, author of Remember Every Name Every Time, points to a dry cleaner in Westport, Conn., that is legendary for remembering people’s names from the moment they walk in the door. “They’ve been in business for 30 years,” Levy says. “No one would think about going anywhere else.”
Want to inspire that kind of loyalty? Levy says the first step is understanding the importance of people’s names and “putting a value on what these names are.” Greeting customers by name shows how much you appreciate their business — and helps to turn them into repeat customers.
Levy uses what he calls “the F.A.C.E. technique” to remember everyone’s names. Here’s how it works:
- F is for Focus. “You have to decide in the first 20 seconds that their name is the only thing that’s important to you,” Levy notes. “So many people are thinking they have to do something to impress the other person when they first meet them. It’s the salesman’s biggest issue. Focus on one person at a time.”
- A is for Ask. After you’ve focused on someone, ask whether you’ve heard their name correctly to show that you care enough to get it right. You can also inquire about a name’s origins or spelling. “It’s the unusual names that are actually easier to remember,” he adds, because you’re bound to ask more questions about them.
- C is for Comment. To bolster your ability to remember a name, think of something that gives the name meaning to you (and make a mental note of it). For instance, maybe you’d categorize the person’s name next to someone you already know or a famous person with the same first or last name. Levy says that the C in F.A.C.E. could also stand for connect or cross-reference.
- E is for Employ. Use the person’s name in conversation to reinforce your memory. Levy says the E also stands for end, because you should always end your interaction with someone by using his or her name one last time. “If you know you’re going to have to end your conversation with the name, that will automatically make focus happen,” he adds.
F.A.C.E. may seem like mere common sense, but Levy says the technique only works when you deploy all of its tips. “It’s the combination of all four that makes the magic happen,” he says. “Let’s say you want to bake a cake. If you use any two or three of the essential ingredients, you won’t end up with cake. You’ll end up with something else.”
What happens if you still can’t remember someone’s name? The best thing to say is, “Please remind me of your name.” As Levy puts it, “You’re not apologizing. You’re not saying you have a terrible memory. You don’t want to give that message to yourself.”