If You Got Rid Of Employee Name Badges -- Would Your Customer Service Improve?

Apr 15 2014, 6:21pm CDT | by

Let me ask you a question so inappropriate it may land me on Customer Service Speaker Credibility Watch due to sheer sacrilege.

“Do employee name badges actually improve customer service?”

“Of course they do,” you, hypothetical reader, snap back.

I would counter with (and here’s the sacrilege): “Actually, it depends.”

For the vast majority of those businesses that serve customers face to face, name badges probably do help. The reasons to favor employee name badges are pretty obvious.

Ease (for the customer) of starting a conversation

Clarity when reporting issues/problem solving/troubleshooting for both customers and managers. (Last week, a name badged front desk employee misplaced a package I had entrusted to him;  recalling the name I had seen on his badge helped me help the manager track it down.)

Symmetry: Employees now, often know the names of even first-time customers: from their loyalty cards, credit cards, boarding passes.  Why shouldn’t customers, in this environment, know employee names as well?

Credit where credit’s due: It’s easier to tweet about good service if you can say “Dave put a great swirl on my latte” than “The balding guy with the hipster facial hair put a great swirl on my latte”

 • Deterrence and Accountability: Wouldn’t you be less likely to flip off (proverbially or literally) a customer if you had a name badge on? Name badges are the service equivalent of that awesome “Did Not Wash Hands” light and buzzer above the restroom exit in the Far Side cartoon.  They provide deterrence and instant accountability.

For all these reasons, a healthy swath of service providers (including, most recently, Starbucks) have made the decision to put name badges or other identifiers on their employees.

On the other hand, these extremely smart people say you’re wrong
/>

In spite of all these obvious reasons to favor name badges,  it might surprise you that some of the very finest, attuned-to-nuance customer service providers are going in the other direction, doing away with name badges altogether.

For example, you’ll find 100% name badge-free zones in the following fabulous customer-friendly environments

Andaz, the unusual five star boutique lodging venture that is a very big deal for Hyatt

Edition Hotels, the new five star venture that’s a partnership between Marriott and hotelier Ian Schrager

Capella and Solis, the new ultra-luxury creations of Horst Schulze” (previously best known as the genius behind Ritz-Carlton)

This, then, is quite a division of opinion and practice. So what gives?

Here’s what Sara Kearney, Hyatt’s Senior Vice President for Brands, says about their choice to not use name badges at their new Andaz five-star hotels.  “We’re trying to make you—the customer and also the employee— feel like you’re in more of a peer-to-peer relationship,” having less of a barrier between employee and guest.

For Andaz, in other words, removing the name badge is a visual cue, a barrier removal effort akin to the removal of the high wall-like counters that used to dominate a hotel’s lobby decor.

Tim Miller, a hotelier who was intimately involved in the creation of the new Marriott—Ian Schrager Edition brand, echoes this sentiment.

“[Edition employees] don’t wear name tags because we want it to be similar to when you’re at home and a friend stops by and stays with you for a couple of nights. We want to provide service in a less artificial way than would be implied by the dividing line of name badged employees” and civilian-dressed guests.

Miller does, however, sound a cautionary note. “We do couple this with advice to our teams that we don’t want them to be too familiar.  There’s a difference between being friendly and being familiar.  We are there to make our guests’ stay delightful.  It’s not about sort of crossing the familiar line.”

“I’m Jayden R., and I’ll be taking care of you”

When delivering a speedy, approximate style service (think the expected level of service at your corner gas station, or an Applebee’s/Bennigan’s/TGIF ultra high-volume-but-smiley establishment: “I’m Jayden R., and I’ll be taking care of you”) name badges are on the whole a positive, for the reasons I’ve bulleted above. They promote easy, superficial conversations between customers and employees, and they certainly promote accountability for the employees.

But they’re really not the sign of the ultimate in service, any more than scripted encounters are. While name badges make trivial interactions easy, they kind of put a cap on the level of intimacy that a customer is likely to achieve with an employee or the brand that employee represents.  If you’re handed the employee’s first name with no effort on your part as a customer, you can converse with them with zero effort, but you probably won’t get any further than that zero-effort conversation.

And there’s no question that an environment adorned with name badge employees looks more stilted, artificial, less genuine than without it.    Hotelier Tim Miller again: “We didn’t want the stilted awkwardness of ‘look, I work here, I’m taking care of you because that’s what it says on my badge I do.’”/>/>

 Employees (understandably) hate name badges
I guess I don’t have to mention the elephant in the room: Employees hate name badges. And the more creative, quirky the employee, the more likely they are to hate them.  As the newest generation of employees are millennials, a very, very creative and quirky generation, and it’s best not to start an adversarial relationship with your employee at the word “go,”  this is another factor to consider./>

Case by case by case
Here’s where I come down on this:  I am of two minds on the name tag issue.  Or, more accurately, I take it on a case by case basis with my customer service consulting clients.  It’s worth looking at it both ways, and taking it beyond the knee-jerk reaction you may have, because it is one quite visible way you can alter perceptions of your service to seem more genuine./>

And “genuine” matters a lot to today’s customers.

Micah Solomon is a customer experience consultant, customer service speaker and author.
/>

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Breastfeeding linked to lower risk of postnatal depression
London, Aug 22 (IANS) A new study involving 10,000 mothers has shown that women who breastfed their babies were at significantly lower risk of postnatal depression than those who did not.
 
 
Pakistan media flays India for axing talks
Islamabad, Aug 22 (IANS) Two Pakistani newspapers Friday denounced India's decision to call off talks between their foreign secretaries, saying it had dealt "a serious blow" to the bilateral peace process.
 
 
Novel way to monitor drone's parametres
New York, Aug 22 (IANS) Drones are the future of home delivery and surveillance but to achieve this consistently, they will have to tackle high winds and other uncertainties like depletion of fuel.
 
 
Moon soil charged by electric spark?
Washington, Aug 22 (IANS) High-energy particles from solar storms may have electrically charged the soil in the moon's frigid polar regions, altering its properties, a study suggests.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

David Walliams has naked picture of Lara Stone at home
David Walliams keeps a saucy picture of Lara Stone on the wall of their mansion. The couple - who married in 2010 - don't have many photographs on the walls of their London home apart from a black and white print of the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Daniel Radcliffe learning Japanese
London, Aug 22 (IANS) Actor Daniel Radcliffe says he is learning to speak Japanese but is finding it tough. "I just started learning Japanese. It's super hard, but fascinating," femalefirst.co.uk quoted the British...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Rihanna obtains restraining order
Los Angeles, Aug 22 (IANS) Singer Rihanna has obtained a restraining order against a man who was caught eyeing her Hollywood Hills property here last week. The unidentified man was caught hanging around her house for...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Britney Spears 'fed up' of father's control
Los Angeles, Aug 22 (IANS) Singer Britney Spears is allegedly "fed up" of her father Jamie Spears controlling her finances. The 32-year-old's personal and professional affairs have been controlled by Jamie and Andrew...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Taylor Swift 'horrified' to see John Mayer
Los Angeles, Aug 22 (IANS) Country musicianTaylor Swift was shocked to see her former boyfriend John Mayer at the same restaurant. The duo split in 2010 following a brief romance and the 24-year-old apparently didn't...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Breastfeeding linked to lower risk of postnatal depression
London, Aug 22 (IANS) A new study involving 10,000 mothers has shown that women who breastfed their babies were at significantly lower risk of postnatal depression than those who did not. The study, by researchers in...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Pakistan media flays India for axing talks
Islamabad, Aug 22 (IANS) Two Pakistani newspapers Friday denounced India's decision to call off talks between their foreign secretaries, saying it had dealt "a serious blow" to the bilateral peace process. "The...
Read more on Ad Balla
 
Amy Winehouse sculpture to be unveiled in London
London, Aug 22 (IANS) A sculpture to commemorate Amy Winehouse is to be unveiled at Camden market in north London, near the singer's last home. The memorial, which has been designed by Scott Eaton, will be a life-...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Mariah Carey 'heartbroken' by split from husband?
Los Angeles, Aug 22 (IANS) Singer Mariah Carey is said to be "heartbroken" by her split from husband Nick Cannon. Cannon, the host of "America's Got Talent" has confirmed he and Carey have been living apart "for a few...
Read more on Celebrity Balla