Asking my name won’t make it more personal

Culture and context matters.

Bern Switzerland, I go in a Starbucks coffee. I ask for a hot chocolate. The waiter asks me my name. What the hell did just happen? Do we know that guy? “Shit, is this the guy from the party of last week? Or maybe it’s a friend of my wife and of course, I don’t remember neither his name nor is face”. “I need your first name to put it in the cup”. “Ah OK! I don’t know this guy! And he doesn’t know me too”.

This situation shows us that great ideas are sensible to context and culture. The first times I went to a Starbuck I didn’t get it why they needed my name. I found it awkward that in such a big chain people try to be my friends. But when someone told me it’s the American way to serve people it felt less awkward. The idea of being casual, friendly and on a first name basis with your client is well accepted in the US. So it might sound a super way to make your shopping experience more personal in Switzerland too. But the notion missing here is context. In Switzerland, people are very formal. In a shop vendors talk to you with « Mister ». A store owner never asks your name, especially not your first name. That’s for friends. And this notion is even more true for the big brands. In small coffees where people know each other, it feels right. But at a large chain like Starbucks, the whole thing just feels awkward and completely fake. And this even if the idea behind it is super cute.

So next time you try to make your business more personal, research the cultural admitted way of doing it. And then do some testing. How do people feel about it. Is it too intimate? Is it too formal? Only some good qualitative research can prove that your great idea is also great in that context and that culture.