Thursday, May 30, 2013

Customer Service Excellence is Business Etiquette Plus Personality

Consider customer service as business etiquette plus personality and you'll have happy, loyal customers. Policy alone never serves customers as it does nothing to foster business relationships.

Service is what customers expect based on your branding. Personal encounters with anyone in your company, your public image and reputation, hearsay, and web presence all contribute to your branding. Yet, it's more than that. What customers believe is the only reality you need to embrace.

Business etiquette is making others feel comfortable in a business setting not a social setting. The key to making a great outcome for both parties often lies in the personality of the customer care representative. A rep that can only follow a script almost always infuriates customers. Hiring the best personalities and then allowing and encouraging these reps to express themselves is the opportunity to create a connection.

Look at etiquette as the framework around policy and service. Making others feel heard, comfortable and respected is sound business advice. Yet, it isn't always easy to do, especially if you are still operating in the era of the "golden rule." The "do unto others as you would like done unto you" only works if those others think and feel the same way that you do.

If you've gotten this far in life, you've learned the harsh reality that others don't think the same way as you do. Here's where personality and a bit of savvy can add integrity to customer service.

Policy plus politeness are good things to have in place but they don't create, save or enhance a customer relationship. Only personality can do that.

Some will quibble over the term personality but if you listen to stories about outstanding service rarely are guidelines mentioned. No-it's the attitude, humor, empathy and good judgment demonstrated by the interpreter of the guidelines who made the difference. Character created the rapport. And this is no more important than with an upset customer.

I've seen even the most out-of-control customers calmed and turned around by service providers with exceptional personalities. One front desk associate comes to mind. Her ability to sincerely, sweetly and in the most soothing voice you ever heard take an outraged client threatening to cancel an order and turn them into a fan. She knew how to listen beyond the words to personalize her conversations.

Policy, politeness and a winning personality are the keys to outstanding customer service.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Power Perch! What is It? (Where to Sit During a Business Meeting Or Meal)

A few weeks ago, I asked YOU, my loyal readers, to share your image, etiquette, and communication questions with me. So let's begin with a question I receive quite often. Jill wrote, "I would like to know more about where to sit at a table with my boss and a prospective client during a business meal, as well as at a conference table or in a private office for a meeting."

Two items are at play here. First, we have a prospective client for whom we would like to create a comfortable environment. Secondly, we have a boss whose seniority should be acknowledged and respected. So how do we do that? Let's tackle the seniority portion of this question first.

Traditionally, the head of the table at the end farthest from the door is the "power perch." At business meetings, it is reserved for the most senior person present. The two other important positions would be the seat to the right of the power perch followed by the seat to the left of the power perch. If it is not too far away, the seat directly opposite the power perch can also be another important position. That being said, let's assume you are taking a seat at a rectangular table. Your boss will most likely sit at the head of the table, at which time you should select the seat to his or her right leaving the seat to his or her left for your client.

At business meetings, it is not uncommon for the person who called the meeting (or will be facilitating the meeting) to sit at the head of the table. In this case, due respect should be given to the most senior person present by inviting him or her to sit to the right of the power perch. If you and your boss decide in advance you are taking the lead and facilitating the discussion, then the power perch would be reserved for you, at which time he or she would take a seat to your right.

A Little Bit of History

You may recall that King Arthur (per the wizard Merlin's recommendation) seated his knights at a round table. Merlin believed that a round table would blur inter-knight status distinction. He was right, and the principle is still valid today. I recommend using a round table whenever possible to reduce the emphasis on status positions and create a more collegial atmosphere.

Creating a comfortable environment for the person who is truly most important - the CLIENT!

When entertaining a client, the primary goal should be to create a comfortable environment that meets his or her needs. That's why I recommend that the seating arrangements be discussed in advance so that you, your boss and anyone else from your organization in attendance are all on the same page. Preparing in advance allows you to avoid potentially awkward situations. This type of "seating choreography" is very common in today's professional business environment.

The Business Meal

During a business meal, the power perch is traditionally reserved for the host/hostess. Again, I recommend that you and your boss decide in advance who will serve as the host/hostess. Once decided, this person's role will be to anticipate the needs of your guest(s) and to communicate with the wait staff. Select a seat at the table where you can easily do this.

Jill, thank you for your question!

The Importance Of A Business Card And What A Business Card Says About Your Business

Have you ever met someone and exchanged business cards to realize how terrifying their business cards are? Well as a marketing consultant I found myself in this position too many times. I have seen the cards you can't read because the writing is too small or the background and foreground are similar shades. This forces you look for lighting so you could read the information or you can barely hold the card because the paper is so thin and cheap. It is time to realize that your business card represents your company's image as much as your customer service or services you offer. People fail to understand that and trying to save on cheap business cards will hurt a business in the long run. Just like any other strategies to marketing there is such a thing as business card etiquette.

  1. Paper- having a good paper weight for your business cards is a must, whether you choose a standard paper or linen paper. I understand that small businesses have a smaller budget but in 2008 a good quality business card is not that expensive. So, those who buy the $3.99 special online will get exactly what they pay for: nothing. Every well organized business knows the value of a worthy business card.
  2. Background and foreground shades- the other day I was trying to read a navy blue business card with black lettering. Well, I gave up because I got annoyed of killing my eyes. You don't want people to have that feeling about your card. The background color of your card should always be at least two shades lighter then the foreground.
  3. Information- a business card should at least include your logo and company name, your name (first and last), position, phone number, fax number if possible, address (if you work from home invest in a P.O. Box), e-mail address (optional), a web site (in 2008, a web site is highly recommended and can be very cheap as little as $20 a month with a website builder hosting account), and last but not least something about your company.
  4. Unique Decoration- yes, sometimes the standard background you got for free worked better for your budget, at least so you think. By having the same card as others you just become one in a bunch and forgettable. Your card should stand out and make you memorable, so if you opt for a design, a unique design is a must. Your d├ęcor should represent your company with your logo's colors, company themes, etc. Also keep in mind that too complicated backgrounds might unable good use of scanning software to import cards into electronic storage.
  5. Size- the standard size of a business card is 3 ½"x 2"; stick to it. Like me, some people like to put business cards away in standard business cards albums or holders. Standard size business cards are also better for those who use scanning software to import cards into electronic storage.
  6. Blank back- you have two sides on a business cards, which means twice the opportunity to advertise yourself and business so take advantage of it. One side should have all your contact information and the other should have a picture related to your industry or a promotion or anything that will make it more valuable.

Remember the fundamentals of business cards are very important in representing yourself and company. A creative professional business cards will go a long way in creating a positive image of your and business. Your business card is a marketing tool as much as any other. In 2008 a unique designed business card can be done inexpensively and printed inexpensively as well. Don't let a few more dollars send out the wrong message about you and your business.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wedding Invitation Etiquette - It's Still Important

When making plans for your wedding day, there are quite a few items to consider regarding correct protocol. There are certain ways to carry out the ceremony, the reception and all of the fine points that are essential for a marriage. There are standards for situations including apparel, manners, processes and announcements. Also, there is wedding invitation etiquette.

Wedding invitation etiquette comprises the proper processes to proclaim your wedding. Invitations are distributed to friends, family and additional acquaintances who you would like to attend. If performing a big church affair, invitations are sent to friends and family of both the bride and groom. If inviting individuals connected through business, it ought to be done out of closeness, not for connections. For smaller home weddings, the list can be narrowed down to family and dear friends. Consideration should be given to how many guests can comfortably fit into the gathering area.

Here are several general guidelines when it concerns wedding invitation etiquette:

*Invitations must communicate the mood of the event, be it traditional, contemporary, simple or informal.

*The invitations have to set out the particulars about the events of the day.

*You must be unambiguous in both the words and the connotation when it comes to time, location, clothing, directions or any additional information necessary for the big day.

*You will need to send out your invitations far enough in advance of the occasion to allow your guests to respond and make their plans appropriately.

*When inviting a guest to the ceremony, it is correct protocol to also invite them to the reception.

There are two kinds of wedding invitations, formal and informal. Formal wedding invitation etiquette, the conventional style, is most often employed when planning a large elaborate gathering or a huge church wedding. Informal etiquette can be for small family weddings where things will be more relaxed.

Formal wedding invitations typically have the following rules:

*Names are normally written out in full, including middle name

*All words are supposed to be spelled out, including the date, time and year. All street addresses must adhere to this rule as well.

*Instead of 3rd, or "the third", use III (Roman numerals)

*Formal invitations include two envelopes, the main one and the reply envelope

*Religious circumstances "request the honor of your presence" while non-religious gatherings "request the pleasure of your company"

Informal invitations typically keep to these guidelines:

*Hand written, email and telephone invitations are acceptable

*Less formal use of tone and words

*Uncomplicated statements of time, date, place, directions, along with who is to be wed.

Formal wedding invitations are the most common. On the other hand, informal invitations allow couples more opportunity for originality.

Interview Etiquette - Ways to Land That Job

Because of the many layoffs that are occurring throughout the business world, many people are having to polish up on their interview etiquette. Although it sounds quite simple to be on your best behavior, many people mess up their interview because of poor etiquette. The reasons could be anything. Some people just get too nervous that they forget what they are supposed to do. Other people are simply oblivious to how they are acting and do not see anything wrong with it. Many people offend their interviewer without even realizing it. To prevent all this from happening so you can land your next job, you have to follow a few tips.

The first way to have good interview etiquette begins with your timing. You want to make sure you show up early for your interview. If you arrive earlier than 15 minutes, you should wait in your car or wait outside until at least 10 minutes before. The reason for this is because you have to be aware that the company set aside time in their busy schedule for you. They did not set aside the time, plus an additional 20 minutes in case you were early. Many companies view showing up too early as an insult. It basically is as bad as showing up late. When you show up late, your future employer will assume that you always will be late.

Another key to good interview etiquette is in your hand shake. You want to have a firm handshake that lets your interviewer know that you are confident in your skills. Make sure you are not too firm that you are making the person's hand numb. Also, do not be too kind in the hand shake that your hand just feels limp in your interviewer's hand. You also need to make sure you are kind to everyone you come into contact with, not just your interviewers. If you walk past a receptionist, make sure you greet them kindly. They might be asked later about their opinion of you. You never know when it comes to interviews.

Good interview etiquette also needs to come into play if you no longer intend to show up. Whether you found out something about the company during your research or whether another job opportunity arose, you should never just not show up. Call to cancel and make sure you give as much notice as you can. You should not call five minutes before your interview was to take place. You might actually end up working for or with that company down the road, so you do not want to be rude before you even meet them.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Business Gifts - A Way to Create Business Wonders

Giving business gifts has been a part of business industry standard. Business firms of different sizes give out business gifts for some reasons every year. It is a business etiquette that significantly brings effective surprises. When it comes to appreciating employees, clients and customers, business gifts are likely to be given. The same holds true when acknowledging milestones, retirements and important occasions and holidays. There are so many presents that are available both in local and online market. In these days and times where there is a high demand for such tokens, specialty stores are trying to beat each other by coming up with various business gift ideas to attract their consumers.

Business presents can make a way to create business wonders. If you want to motivate your employees or boost their morale, plan a recognition day and give out recognition gifts. That way, you can show them that their hard work and presence have been appreciated and recognized - an encouraging way to let them do another good work and maintain their work interest.

Gifts for clients are another type of gift that can work wonders to your advantage. Giving client gifts is a great way to show appreciation towards your loyal patronizers. It is also a way to build new relationship and strengthen existing ones. By giving the right gifts for clients, you are also making a good image and an impression that will encourage your clients to do a repeat business with you.

Business gifts come in different sizes, styles, designs and prices. Depending on the type, you can  also choose various colored gifts. Of course, you should always look for gifts that are in good quality. Remember, what you have chosen can tell a story about your image, and you don't want to ruin that in just a snap. Business presents can make or break your business firm, so make sure to give proper care and attention when managing them.

Business gifts were not made equally. There are appropriate gifts for the high management that should be a bit expensive than gifts for the lower ones. Depending on the type of recipient you have, business presents usually vary on the level of formality and price range.

Before giving gifts, you have to keep in mind a few important reminders. First is you budget, then who your recipient is, and limitations of your recipient when it comes to receiving business gifts.

When shopping business gifts, most people opt to shop online than shopping at a local gift stores. Today, thousands of online stores that specialize on different types of business presents, from gifts for employees, presents for clients, executive gifts to retirement gifts. These are likely in the form of plaques, trophies, office desk accessories, business card holders, desk clocks, journals, handbags, pens and the likes. All these items can be personalized with your company name and/or logo, a personal message and other details that you want to include on the presents.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Business Cards - Symbol of Good Business Etiquette

There is nothing more personal than a card-in-hand! A business card is unique way of exchanging contact information and is usually used during sales calls and offer contact information to a potential customer. They are swapped during formal introductions and act as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card usually has the name of the person, company along with the logo, contact information, address and URL of the website. Business cards have traveled a long way from simple black text on white stock to a professionally designed one that features captivating visual design. For businessmen across the world they have become a sign of prestige and stand as a symbol of good business etiquette.

In the age of globalization they have almost become a necessity. Imagine yourself sitting with 10-15 people. It's not easy to remember the names of all the persons present at the gathering, you need a card to serve the purpose.

A recent trade research reveals that the business card printing in the US is a $1.2 billion industry and with the advent of advanced technology the function of business cards is increasing. Yes that's right, nowadays people are anxious to make a distinction with passionately vibrant and multi-textured formats, from plastics to linens. Some sophisticated business cards even carry computer chips which enable you to plug it into your PC and download catalogs or company information.

Yesterday I met one of my friend who offered me his business card. It was a double sided business card with facts about himself, name of the company and website. The card was unique as when it was turned to an angle it shows a sequence of images of a man in camouflage climbing on a boulder. He told me that everyone looks at it and hands it back to me. When I tell them I'm giving it to them, they say, really! Oh wow, can I keep this?

You must be thinking what you have to do with all this? There is a relation. Business cards are a form of advertising. No matter what you are selling, product or yourself, uniquely designed business with amazing visuals or appealing images can enhance your business prospect by leaps and bounds. A unique card will cost you a little extra but the reaction you will be getting is priceless.