Business Etiquette: The Key to Effective Client Services

Posted on December 1, 2002 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Actions that most people take for granted, or never think about, affect business decisions. You may have the greatest product since the invention of coffee, but if there is sand in your social gears, you may as well not be there in the first place.

Business relations between you and your client should be simple and effortless – or at least seem that way. Having the right person or the right product isn’t always enough; the comfort level between you and your clients must also be right.

According to the Research Institute of America, 96 percent of unhappy clients never complain about discourtesy, but up to 91 percent of those individuals will not continue to do business with the person or company that offended them. In addition, 13 percent of those individuals will tell at least 20 other people about the situation that occurred.

So whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or greeting a client you have been doing business with for years, you can be certain of one thing – your actions are being observed.

Here are just a few tips to assist you in gaining the “polish that builds profits.”

First Things First

It takes 15 seconds to make a first impression, and the rest of your life to undo it if it was a negative one.

Observing the “Rule of 12” is the key to projecting a positive image:

  • The first 12 words you speak should include a form of thanks, if appropriate. When meeting a client for the first time, express your gratitude, if appropriate. Example: “It’s a pleasure meeting you,” or “Thank you for choosing our company.”  The first 12 inches from your shoulders on down should include impeccable grooming. Your hair, collar, and uniform should be a reflection of the quality of person you are, and the caliber of company you represent.
  • The first 12 steps you take should be those of confidence. Whether you’re walking from your limousine to open the door for your client, or walking through the airport, walk with a purpose!
  • The last 12 inches from your shoulders down should include pant cuffs that break slightly above the top of your shoes, well-polished shoes with heels that are level, rather than showing wear and tear.

By following the four “Rules of 12,” you will demonstrate “professional presence,” the key to making a positive lasting impression.

Common Mistakes

  • Before you speak, pause for a moment. Know what you are going to say, and how you intend to say it. You may “look the part;” however, when you open your mouth, if you don’t sound like it, you will destroy your professional presence. Beware of “you know.” Do you remember the last person who had the annoying speech habit of saying “you know” in every other sentence? Be sure this phrase is not part of your vocabulary.
  • Interruptions: Sometimes enthusiasm gets the best of us, thus keeping us from effective listening. When this happens, we tend to interrupt before the other person is finished. The way to keep from “stepping on someone’s sentence” is to count to two, after the person has finished talking, and before beginning to speak.
  • Greetings and Introductions: What you say and how you say it is “the name of the game.”

Here are the four most commonly-asked questions:

Q: When introducing my female supervisor to a male client, whose name should I say first?

A: Man or woman, your client’s name should always be said first.

Q: As a man, when meeting a female client in-person for the first time, is it appropriate for me to initiate a handshake?

A: Absolutely. In the past, social etiquette dictated that men should wait for the woman to initiate a handshake. However, in today’s business arena, it is most appropriate for either party to initiate this gesture of welcome.

Q: What is the best way to remember the name of a person whom I’ve just met?

A: When meeting a client or potential client for the first time, make a point of using the person’s name (last name, unless asked to use otherwise). By repeating it at least once during the first few minutes of conversation, the person’s name will be reinforced in your mind.

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