Manners Matter

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
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Recently, I was putting together material for a leadership development initiative for our client. One chapter in a book I referenced talked about “Manners” and how sometimes the managers who are competent but fail in collaborative work are the ones who simply put, lack “manners”. [*]
Seems overly simple? People who fail working with other people well are those who ignore basic courtesies of human interaction and professional courtesy. The more I thought about this, the more I realized it IS true.
We may call it empathy or emotional quotient or use any other term, but in essence, it probably all does boil down to manners. Or should I say good manners. In every situation, handling a meeting, giving someone negative feedback, rejecting a candidate or a vendor: I have always noticed that the great ones do it politely, firmly and effectively.
Ever so often, we can use a gentle reminder about the basic things in life and the idea of penning this blog was to list out the manners in professional practice that help make a great manager, in my book.
  1. I'm running late: You may be late for a meeting, but it is bad manners to not inform those who are waiting for you. Traffic snarls, time spills, we are all victims to time thieves that highjack our schedule. If you’re late, let people know. After all, they DID make it on time against all odds J
  2.  He may be wrong, but you can’t yell at him in public: You have a team? Someone is bound to mess something up sometime. Don’t yell. Communicate. Personally, I feel worse when I drop the ball & the other person is calm and polite about my mistake and not yelling at me.
  3.  Rude is not the same as cool: You may be the wisecrack around but stop short of being rude, even when you have been provoked. 
  4.  It does not matter if you are the client or the employee or the vendor: No matter which side of the equation you’re on, it doesn’t give you the right to be obnoxious to someone – anyone. Remember, what goes around comes around.
  5. Telecallers are only doing their job: Yes, I am familiar with the most annoying among their breed but still, remember someone is only trying to do their job, perhaps trying to be too persistent at it. Don’t buy what they’re selling, but you don’t need to break their spirit.
  6.  Don’t cut into people’s meal times unless you’re taking care to feed them: One of our clients is so thoughtful that he ensures that we are always well-fed during our meetings. There is never an instance when we extend a discussion over a couple of hours or lunchtime without being offered food or refreshment.  It is a lesson I’ve taken to heart. It is a basic courtesy. If you’re the boss and need to give your team grief about their performance, they’ll hate it less if they’re not hungry.
  7. Say Thank you: Someone did her job well? Say thank you without trying to evaluate if she needs to be thanked for doing her job. Overthinking is a waste on this one.
  8. Get someone else to read your angry tirade mail before it goes out: Goof-ups happen. People deserve to be told they caused it. But if you’re angry when you typed that email – chances are the anger overrides the message. Get some one to read and if necessary tone it down. There are exceptions to this guideline and I am guessing most of us will have the sense to use the exception wisely.
  9.  Smile: - Really, I mean it. Even if you’re carrying the entire burden of the world on your shoulders. Smile. You’ll feel lighter too.
  10. Is this a good time? In some of my earlier teams, calling a reportee at 10 pm (no it was not a BPO or 24by7 operation!) for a chat was totally acceptable. And in the same organization, I met a senior manager who would hesitate to call after hours or if he HAD to, first check or apologize for the inconvenience. No prizes for guessing whom I respected more.
  11. A gesture means more, when it is not required: Sometimes a courtesy is appreciated simply because it is not required. Going the extra mile for a simple gesture is hardly ever going to cost you much or go wrong. A colleague returning after a sick day off will always appreciate someone who says welcome back and hope you’re okay this morning.  A thank you note for some one who did you a good deed may not be expected by the other person, but would be much appreciated for the very same reason.
  12. Give credit where due; if in doubt give it anyway: Acknowledging people’s contribution to a result or outcome is basic, simple and oh so often missed out once the job gets done.
  13. You’re not hired but good luck with your career: Yes, applicants you rejected for that job are people too. You don’t need them anymore (not today atleast) so it is easy to forget them. Dropping them a line that the position is closed and wishing them luck in their future won’t take time but it shows good form on your part.
Well, these are my top 13. I can go on but I guess you get the gist. Feel free to add your own and make this list more comprehensive. I’m sure we all have some people to whom the entire set would be a welcome gift J for self-improvement.
- Pavithra Charan
  Blog 2013#1
About the Author:  
Pavithra is Founder & Partner at Inception Business Services. A Marketing & Management professional with a keen interest in people and passion for ideas, Pavithra moved from being a Banker & Wealth Management professional to entrepreneur. Working with start ups, Brand management, Customer engagement, Content creation and Coaching/Training are areas of work that most excite her. Multi-tasking entrepreneur, mother of a 3 year old and wife of a businessman, Pavithra confesses that her 2013 resolutions include being regular with her blog writing and any encouragement in that direction is welcome. Mail her at pavithra at 

[*]   The Effective Executive – by Peter   F. Drucker
Author – Team Inception

Categories: Empathy, extra mile, Learning

Customer Service: Going the extra “inch” - Team Blog#1

Team Blog by Pavithra Chara - Partner @ IBS
Customer Service is an area that always intrigues me and I enjoy observing the widely varying levels of customer service in my interactions with different product and service companies.  There is always debate on whether the extra mile that some companies choose to travel in the name of customer service is really worth the effort - that is, does it translate into customer loyalty, brand preference or free word of mouth recommendations and so on. When the extra “mile” is under so much debate, I dare to explore the concept of the extra “inch” – little things that cost really very little in terms of time and energy but in the customer’s perspective make a difference at some level.
Recently, I had reason to call the Toll-free customer care number of a leading Consumer Products brand. The reason was a mysterious refusal by our washing machine to power up and work that morning. As most women would appreciate, this is exactly the kind of morning one HATES to have and you can therefore imagine my mood as I made the call in for service support.

Having worked in the banking sector myself and having coaxed many customers to migrate to phone banking, I am usually quite comfortable with the typical call centre service. I quickly navigated through the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) portions and finally started speaking to a customer care person. What struck me during that phone call was that just after I explained the problem (or my interpretation of the problem!), the person actually said “Ma’m, I am really sorry for the inconvenience this must have caused you this morning”. I recognized it as a well-drafted sentence and knew it was part of the script. Yet the simple acknowledgment of my hassled morning was not lost on me. No needling to find out if I had a voltage problem, if I had actually plugged in the machine, if I was sure that there was power supply to that phase, etc – just simple acceptance that our customer has a problem before proceeding onto solving it. I actually felt that the company cared enough for its end customer or user; typically a woman who multitasks and uses as many resources (read people, machines, devices) as she can to run her household efficiently; to work this simple statement into their customer care training.

The rest of the call and the service support that followed it are also worthy of mention. The basic troubleshooting questions were covered in the call and allotment to a service engineer was completed. Interestingly, the company has a different way of measuring customer satisfaction with service calls. During the call, I was given a reference code, which I was to give to the service engineer after the problem was solved, and that too only if I was truly satisfied with the way the whole issue was handled. As soon as I hung up, I got an SMS alert with all the details I needed to follow up the request. As promised, the service engineer called me, fixed the visit time and when he arrived was competent enough to assess the problem, suggest a solution and make a follow up trip to finish the job – all within the same day!  I handed him the satisfaction code gladly. After all, in this world of unreliable service, this was a fairy tale ending.

The more I think back about this incident, the more convinced I am that the attention to small details such as the simple statement I have alluded to here do have an impact on the customer at many levels. Of course, it would have been useless if the company staff had just been polite and understanding on the phone and then not lived up to the actual service requirement. In this case the overall service framework seemed to be well organized and capacitized and hence the extra “inch” I think went a long way. Which is why instead of cribbing about a faulty washing machine I am writing a glowing report on their customer service?

The lesson in this for every company selling a product linked to a service or just a service is clear. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try and replicate their mood and emotion when something goes wrong with your product. Only then can you review the customer service process to see if it has the extra “inches” to deal with the customer as a person first and address the actual problem thereafter.

ERGO:  Save the slimming for other parts of your business, as for your Customer Service, simple pile on those extra “inches”.
Author – Team Inception

Categories: Marketing, Sales, communication, Consumer Durables, customer satisfaction, Customer Service, extra mile



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