Monday, December 31, 2007

Volume 42 - 'Tis the Season...or, is it?

It is certainly the Holiday Season, with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, and with certainly New Year celebrations scheduled all around the world. The grandkids are on Christmas vacation, and the gift shopping has certainly hit its peak. Decorations abound, travel is on the increase, the clerks are 'grumpy', over extension of money is as common as ever, the marketing of the holidays has reached a new level, but something is still different and it has nothing to do with the bustle of the Holidays or anticipation of 2008. There has been an astonishing negative progression toward the loss of Etiquette in the business world within our great country, as compared to other parts of the world.

Etiquette is made up of significantly more important things than knowing which fork to use at lunch with a client. In today's global world, the perception of others could make or break a relationship. As in every other business decision, the devil is in the details. If one cannot return a phone call or respond to an email communication, as a simple example, it is an easy transition to feel that one can't be trusted or have the necessary self-control to be good at what one does. Is everyone just too busy to respond? I doubt it.

Unfortunately, the lack of business etiquette, or even etiquette in general, has gotten lost with a generation of people. From the days (long ago) of teaching your children to say "Yes Sir, No Maam, etc" to the present day of simply no teaching within the home to encouragement of slang terms or tolerance of 'mere grunts' to school systems that simply go through the motions of discipline and the teaching of respect. From vendors to Manufacturer's Representatives to (unfortunately) customers and prospective customers, it just seems that no one is committed to a mutually beneficial relationship, but only committed to their own singular purpose.

Basic phone and email business etiquette has more to do with 'respect' than with right or wrong. It isn't difficult, even for selfish people who think their value is more than it's really worth. Always return calls! Even if you don't have an answer to a caller's question. Call and explain what the current situation is pertaining to the initial call, or direct the caller to the appropriate place to get it. If one is going to be out, have your office phone state that fact with a return date, or have someone pick up your calls. Make sure your voice mail system is working properly and doesn't tell the caller that the mailbox is full, transferring them to nowhere or ringing indefinitely.

With regards to emails, make the subject line specific! (a lesson learned from our Operations & Marketing Partner) Just think of the many messages you're received with generic subjects or no subjects. Don't forward messages with three pages of mail information; delete the extraneous information. Do respond in a timely manner.

Reflect on your business etiquette for this coming year; become 'old-fashion' with regards to how you return calls and respond to emails.

Have a great 2008!