Take Lesson in Business Etiquette From the South

Keep your word; treat people with respect

At Your Service



It amazes me how stupid people are and how we get treated as customers. It’s almost like seeing those buttons certain companies provide for their employees with the slogan, “Yes I Can,” and then everything you ask them ends with a “no,” or “I can’t do that.”

Customer service is no real secret or some magic, it just involves common sense, a good attitude and a simple set of rules or a policy that can be implemented. When Nordstrom opened here in Cleveland last year, everybody made such a fuss over its incredible customer service and its great employees, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, the store is great at what it does and a it is a benchmark company (a term used to model your company after), but think about what, or better yet, who makes it great.

When Nordstrom opened here, it did not bring in 400-plus people from Seattle, but instead hired people who were working at other department stores. It trained those people to be better and gave them the latitude to make the customer happy. Of course, this training is ongoing and an everyday process. The employees are just friendlier and more fun to deal with than at other stores.

Here are a couple of stupid things that can happen in a department store, but should should never occur:

Signs are placed in a department store stating that only three garments are allowed in the dressing room at a time.

Why is this there? Shoplifting, you say. Well only 3 percent of people shoplift, while most shoplifting is internal with a store’s own employees stealing most of the stuff. This is an example of a stupid policy where a store can simply offend 97 percent of its good customers.

You’re waiting in line to finally be rung up at the register and the phone rings. The employee picks it up and now you have to wait even longer.

Has this person ever been trained on how to get a name and phone number so he or she can return a phone call later?

In this situation, it seems that the person driving to the store is now playing second fiddle to the person who just dials. The employee should tell the person on the phone to expect a call back within the next 15 or 20 minutes. It’s that easy!

If the store managers were constantly on the floor observing their department managers and the department managers were coaching or observing the salespeople, the store would be well run and it would make sure that the customers were well taken care of.

Sometimes it’s fun to go into a department store and see what takes longer, getting waited on or dressing the mannequins the way you would like to see them.

Do you want be a first-class company with first-class people? Think about this ridiculous thought involving a fast talkin’ Yankee (me) going down to the southern states, teaching southern businesses how to be nice. Now what is wrong with this picture?

The lessons I learned from the nice people in the South are as follows:

  • Be nice, real nice, all the time.
  • Treat people with respect. If you want to be treated nice, so does everyone else.
  • Keep your word. If you say you’ll call back in 15 minutes, just do it.
  • Don’t say “no” or “I don’t know.” Replace those words with “I sure can,” or “Let me find out.”
  • Look people in the eye and smile. People love a warm smile.
  • Have a sense of humor. The more fun you have, so will your customers. Southwest Airlines has made a science out of this concept.
  • Be empathetic. Put yourself in the customer’s role and feel how they would feel in dealing with you or your business.

At this point you are saying to yourself, “I already know all this stuff and this was told to me as a kid.” Well, your mother and father were right, but the question is, are you practicing this stuff each and every day? Because when you do, you’ll see a big difference in the way the people react to you and your employees. You’ll also see a rise in sales and customer loyalty.

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