I’m not sure when or why I learned to “take names,” but doing so has served me well. By “taking names,” I mean making a note of the name of the person on the other end of the phone line, or maybe in person, for example, a store manager. Whether it is in the context of client contact, such as a secretary or legal assistant, or someone on a customer service call with a bank, etc., asking for and writing down the name of the person for future reference is valuable. First, it seems to me that this is a simple courtesy that is appreciated by the other party. In the client contact area, getting to know the client’s team is important and we’ve known some of these support players for as long as we’ve known the lawyers whom they are supporting! In fact, we’ve kept track of some of these folks even when they have changed law firms. Relationships formed with many support staff have been helpful long after our first interaction. With customer service professionals, live or on the phone, “capturing” their name can help resolve the problem. I think it helps personalize the interaction and, in today’s world of customer service, the professionals are trained to give their name. The customer merely needs to make a note of it so that, if follow up is required, one can relay the name of the prior agent. Many times this has helped me accomplish something that would have otherwise been more difficult. All of this seems basic and simple, but it is not second nature for everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever had an employee for whom this was automatic. I can’t figure it out. Are they afraid to ask the person’s name, especially difficult/non traditional names? Do they not think it is important? Thus, the need to train employees on this point is always necessary. It seems to take time for people to get used to doing this, but is worth the effort.
Learning people’s names is an important skill that often takes time and effort to develop. When selecting a jury, for example, attorneys are required to address each prospective juror by name so that the court reporter can ensure the permanent record of the trial is accurate. The attorneys are required to address each potential juror by his/her last name; addressing them by their first name is never permitted. Due to the fact that many people’s names are difficult to pronounce (such as my last name, Pigott), it is important for the attorneys to write down both the proper and phonetic spelling of each juror’s last name. When the juror, or anyone for that matter, is of a different ethnicity or nationality than the person with whom he/she is interacting, it is never appropriate to say things like, “Wow! That sure is a funny name!” or “What were your parents thinking when they named you?”. David has considerably more dealings with customer service representatives than I do and he is diligent about asking them to provide their names. This is a good skill, particularly when it comes to paying a compliment or complaining to the person’s supervisor. In Magnus’ work with high level attorneys, David and I instill in our employees the need to learn the clients’ names so that they can be addressed respectfully, as opposed to “Hey dude, let’s test your presentation before the mock trial begins.” It is also important to know, when addressing a client or someone else in a position of authority, how they prefer to be addressed. For example, I prefer to be addressed as “Dr. Pigott” until and if I ask someone to call me by my first name. Another consideration is whether the person one is addressing prefers to be called a nickname instead of his/her formal name. My dear friend Charlie, for example, prefers to be called “Charlie” instead of his actual name, “Charles,” while David cringes when people decide to call him “Dave.” People’s names are important to them and it is important to address them correctly and with respect. And, don’t get me started on the habit some people have of referring to strangers as “honey,” “sugar,” or “Mr. Whiskers”!