Etiquette

I was recently asked by an employee of an Aeon client what the big deal was regarding ‘etiquette’.  He said:  “I don’t understand what the big deal is with etiquette.  We’re a lawnmower shop and we deal with landscapers and gardeners.  Why do people make such a big deal out of it?”

For one this employee was pretty young, so I cut him a little slack.  I also understood why he would ask such a question based on other employees he spent time with, as well as a couple of his friends that had stopped by the store, though it’s no excuse.  At the same time I couldn’t help but wonder who his parents were and how he was raised.  I guess it’s the ‘father’ in me; a part I just can’t hide.
I realize that I sound a bit harsh, but lately I have been seeing a ton of what I refer to as ‘basic business blunders’.   And they are indeed blunders that need to be addressed and will be as we go.

I believe that proper etiquette is important in basically EVERY area of life.  What we will do is:  Start from the point a person walks through your door, and then expound a little on why the greeting itself is so important.

First of all when a new customer/patient/client comes through your door they are in unfamiliar territory.  Ask yourself how you feel when entering a new establishment without knowing anyone and have uncertainties about why you’re there, in that place, at that particular time.  Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.  Saying “Hello, welcome to_______” lets your customer know that he or she is visible and important.  Greeting someone as they come through the door shows that you know they are there and that you see them.  Trust me, folks will wonder if you know they are there, if they are not greeted.  They will still wonder if you see them even if you make eye contact.

Acknowledging someone exists in your space is good etiquette.  In general people need to know you see them, know they are there, and that they are important.  In this day and age when you don’t greet your customer/patient/client, they make mental notes.  They really do.  You’ve done it yourself haven’t you?  In my many years as an independent dental consultant I can’t tell you how many times I had to speak to a receptionist almost to the point of placing his or her job on the line to get compliance on this particular point.  It can almost ruin a business.  Even still most don’t seem to see etiquette as being important, and that’s a big problem.

Webster’s online dictionary defines etiquette as:  “The rules indicating the proper way to behave”.  This doesn’t just apply to your dinner table, or­­­ eating somewhere else as a guest.
The employee I spoke of earlier made the mistake of interrupting the owner of the company when he was talking with customers.  This is bad etiquette that communicates:  “What I have to say is more important than what either of YOU have to say”.  This is considered rude behavior in almost any area of the world.  My guess is that the kid’s parents did not cover this in the first 17 years of the boy’s childhood, or that he just didn’t care a whole lot.  Either way it’s still a problem.  The youth today!  Oy vey!

While the above scenario is unfortunately very common, it can be frustrating to correct.  Again we go back to how treating others as you or I want to be treated is pretty good practice.  As an example you don’t start a squabble with another employee with customers in the store, or throw paper airplanes, or sneeze without covering your mouth and nose indoors.  These are examples of poor etiquette.  Consequently those who display poor manners and improper etiquette will often find themselves alone and unhappy.  The only friends they will have are those with similar personality traits and habits.  For a business we (at the very least) this can spell disaster.  There is a deli I frequent in Glendale, California.  I avoid going there in the afternoon because there is an employee who does not wear deodorant.  I know it sounds funny but I am offended by his odor and so I avoid him whenever possible.  In fact if the deli weren’t as good as it is, I would not return.

I was recently at an auto parts store and saw an employee on a cell phone arguing with his girlfriend.  I waited for five minutes and he never apologized.  And there was no one in the store but me. One might  see why this could be one of many reasons the store was empty in the middle of the day.

Another employee I spoke with at a cell phone store on 7th St. In Phoenix greeted me when I entered the store, shook my hand, smiled and asked me sincerely how he could help.  He got off to a great start and impressed me.  Then he started asking questions about my carrier, my service and seemed generally concerned with my happiness as it applied to service and buying a phone.  He asked me if I was thirsty.  He told me to help myself to the candy at the counter and said I could take as much as I wanted.  The end result was that I bought a phone and made a friend.  Do you think I’ll go back to that store or tell people about my experience?  You bet.  And I am not the best with names, but I remembered the employee’s name and will send people straight to him if I am ever asked about where someone should buy a new phone.

My point is that the kid used proper etiquette and he made ME more important than himself.  He behaved as a professional, was ‘civil’ and it clearly showed.  That’s what I am talking about here.  This is what is missing in a lot of businesses.  It is one of the keys to success, and one that over time is most often overlooked.

I think it’s best at this point to turn your eyes and ears over to someone who is an expert in Social Etiquette.  Her name is Nancy Mitchell.  While her lecture is a bit lengthy, it is very informative.  I watch the video at least once a month to remind myself of the details and little things I still sometimes forget.

I welcome your comments on the video and invite questions and observations from applying the information you have learned.   No one is perfect, but we can all strive to make social etiquette a priority.  We can all strive to insist that others use proper etiquette and make clear its importance.

Have a great week!

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