Our office needed the carpet cleaned. The first number our office manager called was busy. The second answered immediately, but the person said, “you’ll have to hold. She did, for five minutes! The next was an answering machine that went on forever and eventually said if she left a message they would call back—but never did.
One more try — someone answered and was vary helpful. He sent someone out on time the very next day. Why compare prices when we received excellent service? That company won our business almost entirely on its customer service!
Sound familiar? Is it possible to enlarge your customer base and improve sales just by promoting excellent business etiquette throughout your company?
“Absolutely,” states David Robbins, President of Best Washington Uniform Supply, “there is a direct connection between our volume of sales and how my employees communicate with anyone who comes into contact with this company.”
Two years ago, when Robbins purchased Best Washington he immediately made significant changes in the way telephones are answered and visitors are greeted. Telephone calls are no longer screened, visitors are not required to sign-in and wear a badge and now the purchasing department is cordial and cooperative with salespeople.
Robbins notes that, “the reputation Best Washington has in dealing with customers (and everyone is a potential customer) is very important to our success………….everyone here is trained to listen, respond cordially in all cases and follow-up requests immediately.”
When you call Don Bailey, Regional Affairs Manager for Southern California Edison Company, you dial directly to his desk and he answers the phone himself. Bailey believes, “I can provide better service for our customers and find out their concerns by being accessible”. Dealing with the public on a day to day basis, Bailey looks for employees who know how to be a good listener and can handle a complaint in a cordial manner.
Several years ago, Rosemary Voss-Jones, now President and CEO of the award winning real estate office of Century 21-A Marketplace interviewed some 15 companies before she decided which one to work for the one she finally selected was based on the conduct of those she came into contact with at the company. At the Auto Club of Southern California you will find an example of excellent business etiquette. Frank Brown,Jr., District Manager of the busy organization, explains, “nothing upsets me more than to hear a phone ring more than three times we train and coach our personnel regularly in customer service everyone is required to possess a professional and respectful attitude, to dress in appropriate office attire and to handle our members’ request politely.
However, “all the skill and knowledge in the world will not make up for a bad zittitude,” explains Robin Tole, Division Public Affairs Manager for GTE California. Tole has provided numerous businesses with telephone etiquette assistance and emphasizes a positive attitude, “Bad attitudes ooze out in conversation un-noticed by the speaker but very clear to the listener. Do what you can to influence your employees to have a good attitude (find out how you could be affecting their attitude negatively and correct it).”
Clearly, good business etiquette and quality customer service techniques are essential to a successful business and it is never too late to enhance yours:
HIRE A COMPANY AMBASSADOR
On the telephone or in person, your receptionist provides a lasting impression of your organization. This person should possess the following attributes:
Listens and pays attention
Speaks clearly and expresses themselves easily
Uses correct grammar
Dresses appropriately (clean, neat, professional)
Projects friendliness, enthusiasm, a good attitude
ESTABLISH CUSTOMER SERVICE GUIDELINES
Set up guidelines with your employees on:
1) Telephone Answering Procedures. (Do they ask who is calling and why? Should they say the entire name of the company when answering?)
2) A dress code, if you have one-(Wearing jeans and tennis shoes to the office may work in some places, but can project a casual and unprofessional atmosphere)
3) A customer tracking system(ensure that customer problems are resolved and requests fulfilled by designing a method to track employees’ response).
TRAIN ALL PERSONNEL IN BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
The switchboard is ideal for teaching employees how to treat customers. Many companies have new employees spend a day or two there, practicing vocal tones and making first impressions. Regular training, upgrading verbal abilities and providing a refresher course in efficient, courteous people skills is essential to building good customer relations.
SEEK CUSTOMER FEED BACK
Periodically find out how you rate with your customers with a simple survey (you’ll get the best response if yo pay the postage). Negative feedback is an opportunity to improve your customer service.
DESIGN AN EFFECTIVE ANSWERING SERVICE
If your phones are so busy that you can’t get to them or you are too small or too big to have a real person answer – you mus have a good mechanical system. Remember that most people prefer a rea person but an efficient answering system is better that no answer or a busy signal. Keep your instructions simple and brief and always give your caller an easy way to get to the operator. Test your system weekly to be sure it is operating correctly.
RECOGNIZE AND REWARD SUCCESS
Employees respond to recognition of their achievements. Some suggestions:
1) During a performance review include good business etiquette as a component of a satisfactory evaluation
2) If employee bonuses are available, include all staff who greet the public and contribute to your sales volume
3) Create an employee award that recognizes outstanding customer service. The most important thing to remember is that the phone is not your enemy; it is an opportunity to secure a new customer. When someone walks into your office each and every person should be considered a potential customer Be creative and let us know how -you’re doing!