Is the concept of courtesy in business an antiquated idea? Are we allowing our busy-ness to interfere with professional courtesy and communication? At the risk of sounding a little bit too much like Andy Rooney, here, let me just say that if we don’t take the time to be courteous we’re displaying a serious lack of professionalism and deserve the consequences. The good news is if you run your business based upon respect and common courtesy, you are already ahead of the game in a world that is inexorably sliding into a place where manners and respect feel like antiquated and trite ideas.
This gives you a definite edge! Not only can you employ courtesy to help set your business aside from many others, you can be a positive influence – over time those people who do business with you will most likely follow suit which makes the world a better place, right?
We talk a lot on this blog about building relationships. In fact, I have built a career on that, and as a result enjoy deep, lasting, respectful relationships with colleagues as well as clients. Relationships matter, and nurturing them at every possible opportunity makes all the difference.
There is a trust factor there. There is respect. There is appreciation, and an understanding that time is valuable.
Before I go any further into why the element of courtesy is essential in any relationship, personal or professional, let me address excuses I’ve encountered for avoiding simple business courtesies and how applying the exact opposite behavior can work for you.
Technology. In a day and age when we are besieged with pleas for our attention in the form of emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, and voicemails, there has never been a more important time to manage the technology in your life and make it work for you instead of allowing it to rule your every waking moment. Just because you get a thousand virtual requests for your attention every day doesn’t mean you ignore them. If you let people in, then respond accordingly.
Busy-ness. The ‘I’m too busy to get back with you, even in a cursory way’ response is ridiculous. Simply taking 10 seconds to drop an email response to a request for a meeting, even if you know you won’t be able to attend, extends a courtesy that will prove you are professional and deserve the same treatment in return. Responding is the point; the length of the response is not.
Apathy. I’ve run into people who only ping you or acknowledge your existence when THEY need something from you. Suddenly you’re the center of their universe, when, if memory serves, they’ve completely ignored emails or voicemails directed specifically at them, and have failed to mention said attempts at communication during casual runins in the hallway or at business events. Guess what? You should always respond. Ignoring an email or voicemail just makes matters change into larger issues that can ultimately erode trust and undermine efforts to actually support a project or conduct a successful business deal.
While we’ve all encountered many excuses for NOT practicing courteous business, maybe we should consider how living by the Golden Rule might just serve us, here. We all wish to be treated well, so we should all treat others well, right? That is what most of us were brought up believing, and, thankfully, many of us practice that ideology as consistently as humanly possible.
How does the courtesy concept translate to solid business practice? Anyone in the service industry knows that response is everything, whether it’s voicemail or email being used as the venue. Timely, respectful responses to client questions and concerns translates to trust and ultimately loyalty to your service, over time.
Delivering on your promises is another huge factor. This means time promises, service promises, results promises. If you say you’re going to meet with someone at 9:30 a.m., be there a few minutes early and be prepared. Disregard for someone elses time is a huge red flag and implies you are either disorganized, disrespectful, or just plain disillusioned about how the practitioner/client relationship dynamic functions. If you promise to provide the best indigenous blue corn body scrubs west of the Mississippi, then you should be sure that happens. If you promise to address esthetic issues in a series of targeted treatments, then do your very best to deliver on that promise.
Face-to-face matters. Training your staff to extend all appropriate courtesies to clients will provide two benefits – you will be empowering those employees to provide outstanding customer service as a matter of course, and your clients will feel confident booking services. Remember, referrals come from happy clients, and if you’re treating everyone with the utmost respect and, yes, courtesy, they will not soon forget it nor will they hesitate to recommend your spa, salon, massage or esthetics practice to friends and family.
Practicing courtesy simply means conscientiously practicing good business communication. The net results of consistent practice? Happy clients, more referrals, and stronger relationships, overall.