In our many years working in the corporate world, we learned a great deal about business etiquette, business writing and communication. We deal with many businesses and organizations every day and we know how much our experience has supported us in effective communication with our customers, so we thought we would share a few tips on business etiquette that might be useful to you. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, or we are not aware of some of the standard business etiquette or practices that exist, especially, if you have never worked in an environment where you would learn about these best practices or “rules of engagement”.
Let’s start with networking. It is very customary to extend your hand and shake hands with another individual, introduce yourself with your name, business name or the organization you work for, then allow the other person to do the same. Another great practice is to follow that with, “It’s so nice to meet you, Joan!” This accomplishes a couple of things; it helps you to remember their name, as studies show that we need to say a person’s name at least three times before we can remember it, it shows that you care, you are professional and it helps to build rapport and potentially a relationship with them.
Now quite often, at networking events or conferences, workshops even, you are given a name tag or if you’re like our company, we had name tags made with our name and logo on them. Something to note with your name tag, is that it should be worn on your right. Why? Because when you shake hands with someone, they are facing your right side, as it is also customary to shake hands with your right hand. So, not only will you both introduce yourselves and hear the other person say their name, you will see each other’s name tags. This is part of the rapport building and anchoring that occurs in our neuro-linguistic programming (a little bit of brain science for you!) where our emotional connection to others is generated through visual –seeing their name, auditory –hearing their name and kinesthetic –physical connection through your hand-shake. All of these elements coincidentally create the beginning of a bond. We can also get a sense of whether or not we will continue to grow that business relationship based on this initial connection.
You would think that its common sense to give people space, but it blows my mind how often I see people walk right up and interrupt two people who are talking at a networking event. Here are a couple of quick tips to note when you are navigating a room, and wondering when it’s a good time to go up to talk with someone. If you wish to go up and talk to someone, take a look at the two people’s body position. For instance, if they are standing face to face, toes and shoulders aligned, that is considered a closed conversation –and therefore, it is not appropriate to approach. However, if the pair are facing outwards, shoulder to shoulder and their toes are outwards (so more in a “V” stance), then that is considered open conversation and it is very appropriate to approach the pair and strike up a conversation.
Either way, always approach professionally, say “hi”, introduce yourself, extend your hand to shake hands and ask them their name. Most people are welcoming and likely feeling a bit uneasy as well, so they are likely going to be warm and inviting to you. Joining conversations can be a bit intimidating at first, but as you move through the room, smile, say “hi” to those you pass by, and when you see someone standing alone, strike up a conversation with them. It does get easier with time and practice!
One of the most common complaints we hear, is “I emailed or called them, and nobody got back to me!” This means checking your voice mail, emails, Facebook messages, LinkedIn regularly as we all want people to respond to us when we ask a question. We also speak to this in social media, as we know that the social media feeds are always buzzing with posts, comments and questions. It’s imperative that we answer our phones, check messages and emails and respond to social media as soon as you can. One of the ways to manage this, is by setting an auto-responder on your social media and having an automatic response to acknowledge emails and messages as they come in. You want to be managing expectations, particularly if you’re an entrepreneur who spends very little time in the office or at a desk. I’m thinking of contractors, electricians, massage therapists, aestheticians or hairstylists, who are away from their desks, attending to clients or working offsite and may not have access to your email throughout the day. Regardless, your clients are expecting you to be responsive and there are a variety of tools and resources that can help you stay on top of your emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, Instagram messages, LinkedIn messages… you get the point –lots coming at you daily! The key is to find a system and a process that works best for you.
Here are a few suggestions to ensure that you are responding to your client’s requests, questions or concerns in a timing fashion. Again, one of the most common complaints from customers, is that nobody got back to them. A great solution is to hire a receptionist or a virtual assistant, and they can often take care of many of your administrative needs as well; booking appointments, invoicing and more. Another suggestion, depending on the nature of your business, is to have an online booking system so that people can book with you, without you having to answer the phone or an email. A great tip to leverage this great online service, is to make sure that your voice mail message specifically states your website address and that clients can book online. Can you imagine the amount of business that is lost, with someone not responding? Customers will simply phone the next company, if they get no response. So, remember that when weighing the cost of hiring someone or paying for any of the services we mentioned. The costs will be paid for over and over, with the amount of business you retain!
Email is the New ‘Letter’
We all know that our customers are the most important. In fact, they are the backbone of our businesses. Without customers, we wouldn’t have a business. We need to be on the ball with our customers and clients, serving them the best we can at all times. A big part of customer service, is using your customers’ name when you’re interacting with them.
We know that everyone loves to hear their own name. So, why is it that we still see people emailing informally and not addressing the person they’re emailing appropriately? Has this happened to you? How does it make you feel when you receive an email that is not addressed to you personally? If someone cannot take the time to write Hi or Good afternoon (along with my name), I am not likely going to do business with that person. Be sure to address your customer with a Hi, Hello, Good Morning or Good Afternoon, followed by their name –it’s courteous and it doesn’t take more than a second or two.
As for the email itself, if you’re in business, treat email like it’s a letter to your customer. This means, in addition to addressing your customer, make sure that you write in a professional way, similar to a letter, outline the purpose of your email, state what you are going to do, and have a call to action so that your reader has some direction as to why you wrote the email and what to do next, or what you will do next.
In summary, we only covered a few business etiquette best practices here, although there is so much we could share. That said, we often share tips and best practices here to support businesses and their teams. In a previous blog post, we shared more tips on just networking specifically, if you’re interested.
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