This Insights article was contributed by Pat Fontana, owner of WordsWorking.
I went through a fast food drive-through. While waiting at the window for my food – after a very pleasant greeting of “$9.71” (and literally no other words) from the restaurant’s employee – I noticed a sign behind him. Actually, it was more of a scrawled message on a whiteboard, but I took it as a sign.
The message said, “Please and thank you go a long way.” Yes! At last, I’d found a store manager that had it right.
Alas, the employee returned – after a very long, lonely absence – and handed me my food. “Have a nice day” was all I got.
Okay, so that’s polite and nice and all, but I seriously doubt it was anywhere close to sincere.
I had to ask. And I did, as pleasantly and in as good a humor as I could muster. “That sign behind you – is that for employees to read or just something nice for customers to see?”
The employee was absolutely, positively dumbfounded. It was as if he was seeing that message for the very first time. I’m guessing that was the case, actually.
He asked me – and I am not making this up – “You want me to say please and thank you?”
Seriously? Yes, dear, I am your customer. I just handed you money. (Remember the “$9.71”?) You could say thank you.
That’s not really what I said in response, of course. My even smarter response was “Yes. It goes a long way,” as I again pointed to the sign.
The employee gave a bit of an embarrassed giggle but still did not get it. After a moment’s pause, I said “thank you.” Twice. He said… wait for it… “you’re welcome.”
So, I gestured. No, not that kind of gesture. I gave him a visual signal that I expected him to say, “thank you.” And hooray! He did actually say it. Although, again, I seriously doubt it was anywhere close to sincere.
Please and thank you… they do go a long way… when they are used! These words have magical powers. They can make customers happy, convince customers you honestly appreciate their business, and bring those customers back for more.
Somewhere along the line, we have lost our basic manners – in our lives and in our businesses. How often are you, as a customer, handed a receipt with a hearty “here you go”? Are you, the customer, the one who always says “thank you” to the person who just took your money?
Or maybe that “here you go” was not so hearty. Maybe it’s more like “I have a job that pays less than what I deserve and I’m just ready for my shift to be over, so here you go.”
Don’t get me wrong. I feel for people who are not making what they should and who are in jobs that are nowhere near their career choice. However, regardless of what job they (we) do, they (we) need to put heart and manners into it.
As a business owner, you need to be sure your employees are doing just that. Customer communications can make or break your business. If a customer is already disgruntled, the lack of communication on your employee’s part can send that customer packing.
Pleasantries – those basic manners – can diffuse a potentially catastrophic situation for your business and may even give you one more happy customer. If your customer is already satisfied with your business, those magic words will just add to their loyalty.
Write great sayings on a whiteboard, but make sure your employees actually see the signs and follow through. Train your employees on effective customer communications that include the need to say “please” and “thank you” frequently. It will go a long way – for your customers and your business.
Employees can learn. Customers can be more appreciated. All it takes is an extra breath and another two words: “Here you go. Thank you!”
Pat Fontana is a communications trainer and business writer. Her business, WordsWorking, focuses on improving workplace communications, concentrating on the fundamentals of human interactions. Pat can be reached at (919) 306-4242 or [email protected]
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.
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