Recognition and acknowledgement are basic elements of courtesy. Taking the time to notice a person and acknowledge them can have powerful effects for everyone.
In organisations of every size, people can feel isolated, invisible, unappreciated and of little value if they receive no feedback from colleagues or managers. Recognition and acknowledgement can make a big difference to their feelings, their motivation and performance.
Recognition and acknowledgement are important for customers too. The feeling that someone is genuinely interested in looking after their needs, rather than acting automatically, helps cement customer relationships.
Recognition and acknowledgement are not soft options. Any concerns about employees or customers taking advantage of this approach can be allayed by robust processes and procedures and terms and conditions.
Courtesy can be fair, firm and effective. It can seem like an act of faith, and may not always be repaid, but it will be valued by many people.
Employees . . .
Say hello to everyone. When we meet someone coming the opposite way through a door, in a lift or in a room, we don’t have to know them already to greet them. Sometimes cliques develop as people only talk to people in their own small circle or department and this can prevent effective communication across an organisation.
Greeting people irrespective of their role or status enables wider and deeper networks to develop through organisations. It also helps new employees to settle in faster and makes shy people feel more comfortable.
And if someone is having a bad day, for any reason, it can give them just that lift they need.
2. Make introductions
Often people assemble for meetings without knowing the identities of the others present. It’s not only impolite to assume that other people know who we are and what our role is, but it can inhibit them from participating fully in the meeting.
Assuming that every meeting has an objective and that everyone present has a part to play in achieving this, it is important to include everyone and recognise what contribution they can make.
3. Take time to say thank you
Many of us are so busy that sometimes we develop tunnel vision, focusing only on our present task and ignoring everything and everyone else. We can be so busy that we forget to thank someone who has helped us.
Yet that person might have worked late to email us an important answer, delayed another piece of work to get a document to us or have made a special trip to the Post Office to send us an item we needed urgently.
Saying thank you is important. It doesn’t have to be big: an email with “thank you” in the subject line, a quick phone call or text or popping into their office to thank them in person. This is especially important if we rely on someone to help us regularly. If we don’t thank them, especially where we ask them to put themselves out from their usual routine, they could feel we are taking them for granted. So we should express how grateful we are for their help.
4. Show consideration
We talk about not bringing work home, but often it’s difficult to put home life out of our thoughts, especially if we have serious problems. Personal and family health issues, debt or other problems can weigh heavily on us and affect our energy, sleep, concentration and moods. All these can impact on our work performance.
While these may not necessarily be an employer’s responsibility, and there may be little an employer can do, understanding alone can help support that person.
Some individuals may not want to discuss these matters, but a supportive atmosphere where people feel comfortable talking about them may help them both as a person and as an employee.
Customers . . .
A customer who feels ignored can easily walk out of a shop or abandon a phone call or online shopping basket. Most want to feel they are getting the right attention, but what this right attention is differs from one person to another.
Acknowledging a customer when they arrive creates the opportunity for interaction when they want it. Some want to be guided all the way, while others want to browse at their own pace.
Achieving the right balance for all types of customer is a challenge, but if we are flexible and respond to an individual, we can build a very strong relationship with each customer.
With a trend towards open-plan areas in banks, shops, doctors’ surgeries and other public organisations, many customers do not want their affairs to be overheard by others.
Whenever possible, discuss transactions out of earshot of other people and use tact when asking sensitive questions, perhaps concerned with financial agreements.
Most customers want assurance that their personal details are not being shared with the rest of the world and value suppliers who demonstrate such tact and understanding.
They are more likely to give repeat custom because they can see that you recognise and demonstrate their need for privacy as well as understanding their circumstances and customer requirements.
3. Give information clearly
New customers do not know how your business works.
They can walk into a café and not know if they have to order at the counter or have their order taken by waiting staff. Making this information clearly available provides immediate reassurance so they can relax and enjoy their meal. This can apply in different ways to every type of business.
If there is a queue or customers have to wait to be served because you are busy, acknowledge them and advise them on what is happening.
Instant service is not always customers’ first priority and many prefer to wait and receive good, personal service rather than be rushed through as if on a conveyor belt.
4. Saying thank you
We take it for granted that people say “thank you”, but it doesn’t always happen.
When businesses are under immense pressure and competition is tough, most are genuinely grateful for customers choosing to purchase from them. Thanking them demonstrates this and can help to convert them into a repeat customers.
Just making sure we thank every customer before turning our attention to the next one is essential practice.
See the other polite prompts in our please and thanks courtesy toolkit.