Since When Are Bad Manners Good For Business?

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Am I the only one who’s noticed that more and more businesses just don’t care about service anymore? That bad manners and an indifferent attitude are the norm?
In fact, within the last six months I’ve had experiences that illustrate this point only too well — when a major retailer makes it nearly impossible to buy a product from them, when a service business is utterly indifferent to legitimate complaints, or when a sales associate is so intent on making a sale they didn’t care about my interests or budget. I’ve waited patiently as clerks took their time finishing up personal calls, had questions go unanswered and been rushed right along when closing time is approaching.
It’s like my business… my money… doesn’t matter one bit. Like companies just don’t care enough to earn my loyalty.
Apparently I’m not alone in lamenting the lack of manners in business today. An engaging article in the August 2010 Target Marketing suggests that it’s high time businesses everywhere start to treat customers like they matter — as if you truly  care for them and their business… before someone else does. Do this and you’ll distinguish your brand from everyone else. And that’s a good thing.
As a business owner you need to understand that bad manners are bad for your business — they drive away customers. Article author Andrea Syverson who also happens to be president of a strategic consulting firm that specializes in branding and merchandising suggests that companies of all sizes…

  • have a servant’s heart, think in terms of how well your brand helps customers accomplish their goals, do you make life easier?
  • treat customers as friends, on purpose, think of them as real, live, busy, multitasking people like you and try to “get” them and what they need.
  • be more than civil so you make people feel special
  • show genuine appreciation for customers and their business, which is where quality imprinted promotional items can have a real impact — showing your appreciation while reinforcing your brand.

If you’re not sure how your company fares when it comes to manners, you might consider the technique used by Syverson when she works with clients…

  • anonymously place orders through all your channels (phone, mail, web) and pay attention to how you are treated.
  • do the same with your competitors and see how they treat customers.
  • look at the condition of your products when they arrive, observe the outer packaging, inserts and all aspects of the experience of the customer.

You’ll be surprised (and perhaps not pleasantly) by what you find. But then, you’ll have the chance to correct any problems, and demonstrate to your staff the value you place on customers and their business. Of course if you tout fabulous customer service, but treat employees, vendors and others around you like second-class citizens, the inconsistency will be glaringly obvious… to everyone.
It’s also important to talk to your staff about manners — good and bad. Let them know what you expect in terms of dress, attitude and speech when they are working. While some people might claim not to know when they’re being rude or insensitive, that’s just not true. Everyone is aware when they’re behaving badly, but most are just too focused on me, myself and I to notice, or care. You need to make them care, at least while they’re working for you.

Making good manners a priority in your business is an easy, inexpensive way to distinguish your product or service. And in this bad-mannered, grunt as greeting day and age, your distinctive behavior will be a welcome oasis in a sea of rude insensitivity and incompetent service.

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