Even if you don’t work at Cheers, you should still get to know your customers by name.

Restaurant employees who make a personal connection with guests have the largest impact and lead to stronger feedback scores and recommendations, according to multiple recent studies.

A Goodsnitch analysis of customer feedback on more than 2,000 restaurants shows that a key driver of patron recommendations is when a customer connects with a specific employee. The Goodsnitch data comes from real-time mobile feedback.

When asked if they would recommend a business, customers were 57 percent more likely to select “for sure” if they also identified a specific employee for recognition. Specifically, if guests asked to provide feedback on a recent dining experience identified a specific employee for recognition in the “Heromaker” field, they were 57 percent more likely to select “for sure” when asked if they’d recommend the restaurant.

“Our data shows that a key driver of patron recommendations is when a customer connects with a specific employee,” says Rob Pace, founder of Goodsnitch.

In addition, recent Deloitte research shows customers return to certain restaurants on multiple occasions based on the relationships they’ve built with that restaurant and its staff. Asked about their most-frequented restaurant, 32 percent of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that they had built a personal relationship with that place, compared to 29 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed and 21 percent who were neutral on the issue.

Examples of the impact staff members have on their guests are clearly evident in feedback scores. At one restaurant, Goodsnitch survey respondents identified their server, who helped them get in and out in time for an event. “Kami was amazing,” the guest wrote. “We needed to get in and out quickly to see a play. She was delightful. Food was terrific. Thank you.”

At another eatery guests said their server, Craig, “was really helpful and made great recommendations.

“He made us feel welcome and comfortable,” the respondent added.

Not only does a guest connection make for better feedback but it also leads to more frequent word-of-mouth suggestions, which are “one of the most powerful marketing forces for any business,” Pace says.

The insight from both studies has significant implications for customer engagement, training, retention and culture building. Employees are often moved upon hearing they had been recognized personally, and after being recognized employees tend to offer an even higher level of service on subsequent visits.

“Connection is thus a two-way street that may also unlock the key to workplace happiness, retention and great service,” a news release from Goodsnitch says.

When asked on the same survey to rank attributes of good service, respondents who had a positive experience ranked them in this order: attitude, friendly, speed, skill, helpful and knowledge. Notably, “attitude” and “friendly” significantly trumped “speed” and “skill.”

“This again underscores that relationship is more compelling than competence,” the release says. “These findings would suggest that a significant portion of the hiring, training and workplace environment focus should be directed toward the team’s interpersonal and emotional intelligence, not just execution.”