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Columns : Influential Voice - Kim Welcome Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

Professionalism is about being appropriate
By Kim Welcome
Jul 10, 2014 - 12:42:25 AM

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It is not uncommon for employers to think-- if they hire people who are friendly there is no need to invest in customer service training. Erroneously, some employers believe hiring pleasant staff is all that is needed. Sourcing naturally friendly people for your front line is very important; however this is only the first step in ensuring your customers have a great experience.

I cannot tell you how many times during my workshops I have witnessed “polite people” give their best effort, only to demonstrate their honest ignorance of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Training helps to create self awareness, which is an important key in delivering exceptional service.

Because we live in a community that is somewhat lacking in the area of customer service, we sometimes are unaware of what people from other places would consider inappropriate. You would be surprised to see and hear what “good” employees think is okay.

Many professionals do not understand the line between being friendly and being too casual. At one time, to be professional was to be stiff and cold. I remember the days when the receptionists who manned the desks of accounting firms, attorney’s offices, insurance companies and the like would never smile. They made you feel you needed to qualify yourself to enter the doors. However, business has become warmer, which some mistake for casual.

Here are some real life responses of well meaning frontline staff:

In response to a customer’s frustration with slow service, a restaurant hostess asked, “Why did you come at our busy time?”

A sales girl politely asked the customer to please hurry up because it was closing time and she needed to pick up her child from the day care.

This one is my favorite. A business colleague of mine relayed her experience at one of our restaurants, dubbed as fine dining. She had guests in from out of town and offered to take them to dinner. When she asked them if they had a restaurant in mind, they enthusiastically chimed they wanted to go to this one particular restaurant they had heard so much about.

She obliged them.

As she relayed her story in utter annoyance, she imitated the waitress as she recalls the experience. They asked the waitress what she would suggest on the menu. The waitress proceeds to violate my friend’s personal space, lean over her shoulder and go down the menu with her. “To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t order dis’ or dis’ or dis’ and I didn’t like dis’ one too much.” My friend was mortified. She said her guests just watched in amazement while this waitress made no suggestions, only bad mouthed half of the menu items and spoke to her as if she was an old friend from high school rather than a patron of this upscale establishment. She was not rude, just incredibly inappropriate. At the end of the evening my friend was reassured she had experienced fine dining when she received a bill of $600 for one appetizer, three entre ́s, one dessert and three glasses of wine.

Check out the FULL SERIES of articles by Kim

Kim Welcome CEO of Influential Voice works with progressive companies and individuals who are concerned that unrefined communication skills may be hindering their growth and advancement. She helps them to increase their power to influence for greater productivity and impact. For more info visit www.influentialvoice.com. For a Free Speech & Voice Evaluation email info@influentialvoice.com.


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