As we enter the holiday season, there's a great need for courtesy and goodwill to flourish amidst the flurry of tinsel and "sale" signs. Running a business can be stressful--and that stress often increases in December. What makes matters worse is that you're not the only one feeling the holiday frenzy: Harried customers can be demanding, cranky and just plain rude.
So why, in the midst of all this pressure, should you make an effort to be courteous and kind? Several reasons come to mind:
1. It's the right thing to do. People are coming to you to do business. They have chosen you over your competitors, and you should be grateful for that. They are the reason you're in business, after all, so showing some extra courtesy should come with the territory.
2. You'll win customers for life by doing good. Research has proven that people remember when you've done something extra, even if it's as simple as helping customers carry their purchases to their car. Catering to your clients' needs is a sure-fire way to win their loyalty. And remember: News like this travels at warp speed, and you'll see more clients because of it. It may be the one thing that sets you apart from competitors in a favorable way.
3. Courtesy greases your marketing wheels. Nothing can help your business run more smoothly than having a positive image and congenial relationships with your customers. When you make it easy for people to do business with you, when you go out of your way to treat your associates and clients with respect, and when you take time to make people feel important, you increase the impact of your marketing efforts. In ads, press releases and direct-mail pieces, you'll have legitimate praise from your customers to share.
4. Courtesy is the glue that holds your business relationships together. People are aware of your company's "personality." If you market yourself as "Your Friendly Corner Bakery," you'd better be certain that everyone who represents your company projects a friendly attitude toward your customers. When people feel good about your business's personality, it's easier for them to trust you and your marketing message.
The following are some simple courtesies that can create goodwill with your customers:
- Set business hours that accommodate a variety of working schedules.
- Make sure your merchandise is clearly marked and neatly displayed.
- Remember the names of your customers, ask how they're doing and give them individual attention.
- Offer a variety of payment options, such as credit cards, installments, checks, cash or personal accounts.
- Follow up with your customers after each sale to ensure that everything is satisfactory.
- Smile warmly and often, listen attentively, and regularly and sincerely say "thank you."
Your marketing efforts can be as hard-hitting and exact as a Sampras serve, but without the spirit of goodwill and courtesy to reinforce their message, they provide a hollow victory.
Leann Anderson is the owner of Anderson Business Resources, a Greeley, Colorado, company specializing in customer service, marketing and business etiquette. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org