Business etiquette is a set of rules that govern the way people interact with one another in business, with customers, suppliers, with inside or outside bodies. It is all about conveying the right image and behaving in an appropriate way. (credit: https://www.smartcompany.com.au/)
The business world has changed drastically over the years in many ways, especially how we communicate with customers and suppliers. The meteoritic growth in technology has made it easier for us to communicate, I am referring to free group chat software such as MS Team, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and email.
With the economy creating a downscaling of staff, more small businesses are making their appearance in the marketplace. I’m talking about those brave souls who have spurned the corporate world and all its trappings and traded it for doing something they’re passionate about, allowing them more personal, and often, financial freedom.
As a business owner, no matter how small, the etiquette practised in the business environment should be adjusted to suit the needs of your clients and customers. And perhaps, because of being a one-man-band, you and your unique brand have to work just a little harder in order to prove yourself.
Here are a few pointers on how one could ensure the success of your business and earn respect as the owner.
(PROMPT) COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION
There is nothing more frustrating for any customer than to reach out to a business via email or leaving a message on a cell phone and there is no response; not for a day, weeks, months – or worse – ever! If you have an “info@” or “communications@” general email address for your company, make sure it is checked regularly! When you receive a phone call or an email from a prospective customer respond as soon as possible. Even if the enquiry might take longer, a quick call or email will let the sender know that you are working on their enquiry. It’s also a good idea to keep the customer regularly updated of the progress of their enquiry or assignment.
YOU’VE GOT (E)MAIL
When writing an email from your business address, the interaction must always be professional. Always! Adjust your email setting to automatically to check your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization before hitting the send button. If English is not your first language, enable MS Editor or download Grammarly – it is free!. Avoid one-word answers and ambiguous statements; be clear and concise. Respect any titles of the person you’re dealing with, ie. Doctor, professor, your honour, etc. until they tell you to call them by their first name. Remember, do not put anything in writing that you would not say in person.
STICK TO TIMELINES
When accepting a new assignment from a new or old customer, be realistic and honest about the completion of the task at hand. It will only put you on edge and give you sleepless nights if you accept a new task knowing that you’d probably not going to meet the deadline. Be realistic in your approach; sometimes things happen beyond our control. It is good practice to keep your client/customer updated about the progress of their order or the service they expect you to render. If you are not going to meet the date you promised, be honest and let them know in advance. This may be an initial irritation on their part but at least they are kept in the loop and can adjust their expectations. Do not make excuses, or even worse, lie about the reason(s) you will not be able to meet the deadline, especially when it is due to laxness on your part.
Whether you are meeting your customer at a coffee shop, restaurant or at your office, it is always polite to put your cell phone on silent and put it out of sight for the duration of your meeting. Give attention to the conversation and make the customer feel they are important. It is rude and unforgivable to answer calls or respond to text messages during this time. You are sending the wrong message to a customer; you are saying: “I do not value your time”, “you are not important enough to demand my attention”.
I’M LATE, I’M LATE, FOR A VERY IMPORTANT DATE
When you schedule an appointment and you need to travel, always be punctual. Time is precious – yours and your client/customers. If you are not familiar with the area you are travelling to, look it up on Google maps. Download Waze or use your GPS. Leave 30-45 minutes earlier in case of heavy traffic or unforeseen circumstances. The worst-case scenario is that you will be early, and you will make a good impression. Being early will give you time to quickly check and respond to emails or cell phone messages.
IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. REALLY.
It is not always about money. Remember, you were also a small business at one stage. Take the time to write a review for good service received, not just in the case of bad service or poor product quality. On social media, Like and Share business posts, give recommendations and refer small businesses to your friends and family. You will not only have their gratitude, but you will have their respect too.