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Just take two seconds to . . .

. . . say ‘thank you’.

It happens all the time. We’re busy. Our colleagues are busy. Our customers are busy. There’s a deadline to be met. We work beyond our contracted hours. We do it for our colleagues, for our customers, for the business or organisation, for the community. We lose all track of time to get it done.

And when we eventually click to send the report, post the goods or send off the delivery, that’s it: nothing.

No recognition, no acknowledgement, no thank you.

Someone recently told me that they had worked extremely hard, beyond the call of duty, to gather data for a project, only to hear other people thanked and their own contributions not acknowledged. They felt deflated.

It takes just a few seconds to email or text: thank you.

It takes just a few seconds to call and say: thank you.

It takes a few more seconds to pop your head into an office and say: thank you.

It takes a bit longer to call into another building and say: thank you.

Whether it’s a few seconds or a bit longer, your ‘thank you’ will mean the world to the person you thank.

And what’s more, they’ll work hard for you again when you need it.

It costs so little, yet means so much to everyone.

Read our recognition and acknowledgement polite prompt and checklist for ideas on how to thank those who work so hard for us.

Thank you.

• Robert Zarywacz is the co-founder of pleaseandthanks.co.uk and is courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. As well as focusing on courtesy in daily life, he believes wholeheartedly in the individual benefits and commercial value of courtesy in business and the workplace. Robert provides commercial copywriting, PR and social media services at z2z.com.

Does courtesy have a place in social media?

In many ways social media seems to be opening up a new world for us, so is there a place in it for courtesy?

Do old standards of courtesy apply or do we need to modify our behaviour to suit 24-hour connected people?

We think courtesy is still relevant but that there could be differing opinions.

We’ve had a go at producing a code of courteous behaviour for social media in one of polite prompts.

Please go to our courtesy toolkit and let us know what you think and if you have any suggestions

What a customer wants is . . .

In this age of internet shopping, telephone call centres and automated customer service, what never ceases to amaze me is how few businesses are able to handle simple transactions like a change of address.

Amid the bombardment of direct mail, emails and SMS adverts generated by Customer Relationship Management systems, I ask myself whether a company that can’t even manage to record a change of address competently can handle a bigger challenge, such as a purchase?

I understand that mistakes are made sometimes; it is only human. Genuine errors, letters lost in the post and misunderstandings will always happen and I believe, where genuine, customers should actually show some understanding and forgiveness. We all have our off-days and, unless we can demonstrate that we are pefect ourselves, should not expect everyone else to be so.

But sloppiness, negligence and incompetence should not be tolerated. With the range of sophisticated systems and expertise available, no large organisation (either commercial or public sector) can have any excuse for not being able to manage such small, but vital transactions competently. Smaller organisations might not have the same level of resources as larger ones, although even they should strive to get the basics right.

Rather than wishing for everything possible, the modern consumer is reduced to wishing for a very basic level of service:

  • Please get my name and address right
  • Please charge me the right amount
  • Please provide the right item to the right address on time

But it need not be like this. Many problems relating to very simple transactions could be eliminated by a positive attitude from companies. Employees who are interested in their work, who understand the need to obtain accurate information, record it in the right way and action any changes or special requests, can make a big difference.
Many customers, if their expectations have not been raised to unrealistic levels, will be satisfied with such a level of service, especially when provided politely.

It will also make a very big difference to the performance of a business:

  • fewer errors
  • reduced workload for customer service departments
  • lower costs
  • more satisfied customers
  • repeat purchases

These results are not just ‘nice to have’, but can have a visible impact on a company’s profits. And at no extra cost, they should even make the financial director happy.

To focus on the small, but vital issues that can make such a difference to your organisation, please view or download our latest please and thanks polite prompt on “what a customer wants is . . .

The most important customer needs are very simple, but satisfying them requires total commitment, enthusiasm and motivation at every level of an organisation.

Why do I want a job?

So many young people are disillusioned with the concept of ‘work’ and ‘careers’. And, when you think about it, it’s no surprise.

Clear career paths no longer exist; few jobs offer any personal satisfaction; few employers take an interest in their staff; the pressure and boredom just aren’t worth it.

Many of those who do have jobs hate them. So many young people live either for the weekend when they find release in drinking to excess or for holidays when they can get away from daily dreariness.

But why do so many people hate their jobs?

After all, there have always been boring jobs. Repetition is a factor in most work, but previously many people still took a pride in what they did.

Is it because of immature management?

By this we do not mean young managers, but the style of management that focuses exclusively on the exciting, ra-ra elements of motivation at the expense of the more serious responsibilities of managing people.

Anyone turning up at work on a cold and dreary morning wants to feel that they are doing something worthwhile; that they are valued; that they are part of a group of people with whom they can get on well; that the next eight hours of their day are going to be tolerable, if not enjoyable.

The reality is that many people dread the eight hours of work in front of them; they need to shut out the boredom by listening to their personal stereos; to forget tedium by surfing the internet; to pass the time by gossiping with colleagues or friends; to escape the drudgery by going outside for a cigarette; to do anything, but work.

Immature management relies heavily on brought-in programmes and processes to improve or change the culture, rather than examining the day-to-day interaction between employees.

But overlaying these generic processes on an existing company structure is bound to fail, because the inflexibility inherent in any process guarantees failure. Such processes may be acceptable for companies satisfied with average success, but for those seeking higher levels of performance, culture change has to start with the individual.

Mature management acknowledges the value of each individual, their need for recognition and respect, their need for job satisfaction. It recognises the dangers of commoditising staff through over-emphasis on the value of teams, which can be highly damaging both for individuals and the company as a whole.

A mature manager knows all the people working for them; takes a genuine interest in everyone; shows courtesy to everyone; demonstrates how each individual is valued by the company; spends time managing people, not processes.

Is it surprising that a company that does not practise a mature management style suffers from low morale, high staff turnover, poor productivity?

Like any aspect of courtesy, mature management adds no extra cost and requires only effort and commitment.

If mature management were more widespread, then perhaps younger people would feel more enthusiastic towards work and businesses would enjoy access to a larger pool of readily available, motivated jobseekers. Staff would be more productive and happier to do their jobs, rather than waiting to get out of the door and escape from their employers at the earliest opportunity.

And if companies genuinely want to play a responsible role in the wider community, then there is nothing more worthwhile than creating a more optimistic outlook for young people at the start of their working lives.

After all, why shouldn’t anyone want a job?

Eliminating cause for complaint

With such great strides achieved in the development of efficient business processes and the automation of supply chain management over the past 20 years, the level of complaints made to any business should have fallen significantly.

Customer relationship management (CRM) technologies should also have resulted in companies delivering tailored products and services to consumers, so that not only could they buy what they wanted, but what they bought would do what it was advertised to do.

The reality is very different – we live in a culture of complaining.

Partly, this is due to the evolvement of consumers, whose expectations have been raised consisently and who now expect the earth at the lowest possible price. Present consumers will always be dissatisfied, because nothing can live up to their expectations, while the supplier has no chance of satisfying customers who expect the unattainable.

No one can win in such a culture.

At the heart of this problem is a lack of respect between consumers and suppliers.

If suppliers showed more respect for consumers and restricted themselves to making promises that they could deliver, they would have more chance of satisfying their customers. In return, consumers would have more respect for suppliers, because they would know that the products they supplied lived up to their promises.

Such respect would be both realistic and courteous.

Are we ever likely to achieve such a culture? Who knows?

In the meantime, please and thanks has created three new polite prompt sheets in its courtesy toolkit offering advice on aspects of complaining:

There will always be times when genuine complaints are justified, but perhaps we should all examine our attitudes and ask what effective the culture of complaining has on our lives.