Gain a Competitive Edge by Practicing Good Manners with Your Customers
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The pigtailed little girl on the commuter train saw the man drop part of his
newspaper as he walked by. Instantly, she bounced to her feet, picked up the
section, caught up with him and - without a word - handed the paper to him.
The man thanked her graciously. She went back to her seat, grinned and put
her head in her mother's lap. The mother patted her daughter and smiled
Whatever happened to good manners?
Watching the child's thoughtfulness in action brightened my day, because
sometimes we wonder whether somebody held a funeral for good manners and we
didn't get an invitation. This is especially true in business: for example, when
the store clerk says, "You need to make up your mind, I have other customers
waiting," or the cashier says he's "too busy to make change for a phone call."
Thankfully, hopeful signs do appear. Maybe it's the fast-food employee who
greets you with a cheerful hello and a bright smile, or the retail salesperson
who handles your merchandise return promptly and courteously without a lot of
red tape, or even the telephone customer service rep who speaks in a friendly
and helpful tone. Granted, this doesn't always happen, but in my experience, it
seems to be more common today than in the recent past.
On a recent business trip, I welcomed several examples of how courtesy can
compensate for inefficiency. Attending a convention, my wife and I confronted a
series of blunders by the host hotel's staff. We were assigned to a smoking
room, though we had requested nonsmoking. My laptop computer didn't have
Internet access, because the new phone system wasn't installed properly. The
phone installers left our door ajar while we were attending an afternoon
session. Housekeeping left a stack of dirty linen outside our door overnight.
The health club charged an exorbitant rate for our workouts, although there was
no warning that there would be a cost for hotel guests.
What made the situation tolerable? Why would we stay there again? There are
four reasons. At breakfast every day, Carolyn, our waitress, extended every
courtesy imaginable. When we wanted to change rooms, Sue at the front desk
arranged our transition cheerfully. Ely, the bellman who stored our luggage
while we awaited our move, was a true gentleman as he heard our woes. And Bill,
the hotel manager, answered our letter with a cordial, constructive tone. "Thank
you," he wrote, "for your specifics in your letter," for "it helps us improve
What about your business?
What would a customer notice by watching you and your employees in action
throughout a typical day? Would the customer find the following expressions of
thoughtfulness and courtesy that gain - and retain - customers?
You answer a ringing phone promptly. While three rings might seem quick to
you, that time span could represent the limit of the caller's patience,
especially if he's calling to get a problem solved.
When a customer is with you, you avoid side conversations with employees or
even other customers. Good manners require giving your undivided 100% attention
to the customer you're helping right now. Be sure to share this rule with all
You demonstrate courtesy by avoiding offensive habits - chewing gum, engaging
in grooming (filing your nails, combing your hair), monopolizing the
conversation, smoking among nonsmokers, or ordering more drinks than the
situation merits, just to name a few courtesy no-no's.
You say the customer's name as you talk. The old adage is true: No sound is
sweeter than the sound of your own name. Subtly, this says to the customer, "You
are someone special, not merely customer number 14 on my list today."
You use good table manners during your business lunch. Want to make sure you
are familiar with standard table etiquette? Then read 5 Steps to Professional
Presence by Susan Bixler and Lisa Scherrer Dugan. Frequently I recommend this
book when I'm coaching professionals on improving their image. Chapter 15
includes a section "Good Advice for Any Meal" that provides the latest on dining
Reviewing these suggestions may prompt you to schedule regular reviews of all
your employees' on-the-job manners and behavior. Your customers will thank you -
by returning regularly and by inviting others to do business with a company
where everybody feels welcome and respected.
About the Author
Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations achieve
CPR-Cooperation, Productivity, Renewal of mission. He is the author of The
Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life! For
additional information visit his web site at
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-11-02 12:23:03 in Personal Articles