Uniform Design: Names or No Names?

Dave is an auto mechanic in a major U.S. city. His employer, a well-known car dealer, provides free uniforms through a rental agreement with a uniform company known as Alsco. Dave’s shirts include the dealership’s logo embroidered on one breast pocket and a patch bearing his name on the other. Dave is having second thoughts about the wisdom of wearing his name on his shirt.

He was okay with it when he first started working for the dealership. But over the years, he has noticed that customers have become a bit too familiar. He is concerned that displaying his name invites customers to treat him like a family member or friend when he is, in fact, a total stranger. But Dave also realizes that the decision to display employee names on uniforms rests with his employer.

Whether or not to include names on uniforms is not as easy a decision as it sounds. There is a lot to consider. Even in cases when it is appropriate to display names, sometimes it’s better to use separate name tags or ID cards rather than incorporating names directly into uniforms by way of embroidery or patches.

Names and Company Image

Though the example of Dave and employer-provided uniforms is fictional, it is actually quite common for workers in certain industries to have names on their uniforms. Often times this is a matter of presenting a certain kind of public image. The auto mechanic example works well, so let’s run with it.

Auto mechanics do not necessarily have the best reputation. Thanks to a small number of unscrupulous mechanics that use their independent garages to take advantage of people, the entire industry suffers in the minds of customers. The point of putting names on mechanic uniforms is to present a more friendly and personable image that helps customers relax.

Companies sometimes use names on sales team uniforms for the same reason. Customers tend to feel more relaxed when they see an employee name because they can now address that worker on a first-name basis. This levels the playing field and makes for more fruitful discussions.

Names for Security Purposes

Another reason for considering employee names on uniforms is to improve security. Names make it a lot easier to identify workers when security concerns arise. Then again, perhaps a better way to go is with an official ID card that includes both a name and picture. Combining a photo ID and the employee’s name embroidered on his or her uniform is the best of both worlds.

Facilitating Better Communication

Business-to-consumer enterprises rely heavily on worker-customer relationships. It may be that putting employee names on uniforms facilitates better communication between them. For example, consider a company that offers carpet and upholstery cleaning. Think about the difference a name on a uniform could make when technician and customer first meet.

The technician is at a clear advantage because he knows the customer’s name. That could put the customer on the defensive. But if the technician’s name is on his shirt, any advantage he has automatically disappears. The customer now knows his name as well. This equal footing should facilitate more open, honest discussions.

Names or no names? That is up to employers to decide based on their own goals and circumstances. Sometimes it is appropriate to add employee names to uniforms, other times names are neither necessary nor the right call. And in some cases, the question of employee names is automatically settled with separate photo ID cards. The point is that there is no right or wrong answer. Each company must decide for itself what is best.

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