Good manners mean good businessRyan Floriocustomer service
In the past few years, I've become more and more aware of the
subtle messages of disrespect that are communicated from the
businesses I patronize. Last week, I had a surprising experience to
the contrary, and it made me realize that bad manners in business
are so common that to receive better-than-average service can be
downright shocking. This downward trend in service expectations
conveys that we are lowering our standards in the way we are valued
as consumers, but a more meaningful observation for businesspeople
shows that the slightest improvement in how we communicate can
become our biggest competitive advantage.
Maybe you have had a similar experience to this. I was having
dinner with friends in a restaurant, and the waiter gave us poor
advice that resulted in our ordering enough food to feed a small
village. To make matters worse, the food was delivered cold, and
the rare wine we selected was poured with cork particles included.
My attempts to resolve the issues were met by a polite young man
who explained that it was his first experience as a waiter and, to
the dismay of us both, we were the casualties of the first evening
of his new career. He apologized profusely and asked for our
patience in his delivery. My biggest surprise came when our check
arrived, with a large portion of the meal price deducted from our
bill. It seemed that our emerging waiter had brought our complaints
to his manager, and our business was important to them both. I was
so impressed with the young man's valor in dealing with the night's
challenges that I rewarded him handsomely with a tip concordant
with the original amount of the bill. Not only had this young man's
behavior earned him a substantial financial reward, but this
restaurant had also earned a customer for life.
We can all recall exceptional service experiences in a
restaurant, but how many times recently were you delighted with a
customer service representative when dealing with your cell phone
provider or computer company? Does the cashier at your local grocer
look you in the eye and thank you for your business? When you
called your attorney or accountant recently, did his secretary
greet you with a smile in her voice and handle your request
promptly? When was the last time your doctor or dentist shook your
hand and asked if there was anything else he could do for you?
In my own review of these questions, I began to wonder if
enhanced customer care was unrealistic in times when businesses
were most concerned with skimming time and money in efforts to
preserve profitability. Can business owners and salespeople afford
to show their customers they are valued?
The greater question is: Can they afford not to?
According to top business schools, customer relationship management
is the most effective and inexpensive way to increase your sales
revenue. And by implementing good manners in your business or sales
activities, you can substantially increase your chances of being
recognized and remembered.
The intrinsic solution lies in developing a corporate culture
that honors the traditional values of courtesy and respect in every
level of communication. These communications do not require budget
overhauls; they are merely adjustments in the general attitude and
manners used by sales and customer service people, when addressing
First, make certain that you are answering your customer's calls
with an attitude of welcome. Oftentimes, a phone conversation is
the first impression you make on behalf of your organization. Your
inflection and tonal qualities convey interest and competence or
lack thereof. Don't take liberties by shortening your customer's
name or becoming too familiar during the period of gestation, when
respect is still being earned. Using the words "thank you,"
"please," and "you're welcome" liberally in the sales cycles will
convey your sincerity in working with your customer and serve to
establish a level of respect in your work relationship.
Second, make every effort to return customer calls and e-mails
in a prompt manner. There is no better way to convey your personal
motivation to fulfill their order or request. It is also a
sure-fire way to reveal your organizational skills and shows that
you prioritize their business among other clientele.
Finally, enforce the notion that the customer is always right.
If a prospect or customer takes issue with something that occurred
in the sales process, make every effort to rectify the error as
soon as possible. Undoing the damage sometimes means swallowing
your pride, even when you know you are right. Keep the big picture
in mind and remember that your career depends on your sales
success. If you are able to let your customer win by taking
corrective action and providing a reasonable degree of restitution,
you will avoid unnecessary negative publicity that can stem from a
As we continue to replace human interaction with technology in
our business transactions, it will be less and less required to
interface with our customers. But again, those salespeople with the
most business savvy will capitalize from this trend and distinguish
themselves as business leaders and communicators. In a business
world that is constantly changing, superior sales people will bank
on the fact that a smile and a handshake will always go a long way
Ryan Florio is president and CEO of Cleveland-based SpecialClient.com, a
Web-based company that offers automated client relationship
programs as a vehicle for client retention. He may be reached at
(216) 598-0934 or e-mail [email protected]