Does personalization matter? Four tips to remembering names.

Sure, we’ve all become pretty used to a personalized email – it’s much easier for a data warehouse to remember our name and preferences after all. And while it is nice to see something that says “Hi Jeff” on your screen, you don’t get quite the same warm fuzzy as when another human being uses your name.

One of the best business leaders I worked for always made a point to address people by their first names (or last, depending on the situation). Often, he also knew a personal fact of some kind, like whether someone had kids or a passion for gardening. It didn’t matter whether that person was the CFO, or a member of the cleaning crew that came to his office each evening, he used names when greeting or saying goodbye, maybe along with a question like “how are those tomatoes doing this year?”

No real spoiler alert here – this leader was clearly well liked, had engaged employees, and a good strong business. While that may not all be attributed to his personalized approach, I’m sure it made a difference.

What I’ve noticed lately is that using names has been on the decline (along with some general business etiquette, but more on that another time). I’ll admit – it isn’t easy to remember names or personal facts. And there’s always the fear that you’re going to use the wrong name on occasion (guilty!). But if you’re a leader, it’s something you want to start practicing.

Here are four tips that I’ve used over the years to remember names and facts:

  • When you first meet someone, try to give them your undivided attention by stopping what you’re doing and focusing entirely on the person in front of you (I mean it – don’t even think about what you’re having for lunch). Not only will it help you to hear their name, but also the fact that you held them in your spotlight for even just 30 seconds is something they’ll remember positively.
  • Repeat or confirm their name. Folks often mispronounce my name, so I’m always careful to confirm with others that I’m saying their name correctly. Sometimes it takes a few instances, and that’s okay. People generally appreciate the effort! I think I asked my friend Annick for confirmation about four times before I felt confident I was saying her name properly.
  • Try to associate some detail in your head about the person, like “Charlotte also plays piano.” Now next time you run into Charlotte, you can ask how her last recital was.
  • If a person gives you her business card, study it for a second, and then maybe write a note on the back, like where you met, before storing it or scanning it.
  • When you address people by their name, it demonstrates respect and a sense of connection. And by and large, we like hearing our names. To answer the question posed in the title of this article: yes, personalization matters!