Customer loyalty and relationship-building can be based on something as simple as having good manners.
This is according to a new international survey conducted by technology solutions company Pitney Bowes.
The organisation, which helps businesses all over the world connect with customers to build loyalty and grow revenue, recently launched a white paper entitled ‘The New Rude’, which revealed that a reliance on technology in the workplace can have a detrimental impact on business relations, by encouraging poor manners.
“Having good etiquette may seem a somewhat stuffy concept, but in reality, it boils down to respect for both colleagues and customers. It sets a tone of professionalism and attentiveness which both enhances customer service levels and helps build business relationships,” says Michael Springer, MD of Pitney Bowes South Africa.
“Communication platforms like social media and Skype have blurred the lines of appropriate interaction, but the concept of etiquette is still essential, especially for businesses striving for customer loyalty,” he adds.
The international research for the white paper, carried out by Pitney Bowes UK, explored the types of behaviour considered most rude in today’s business world. The company spoke to 1 000 consumers across five countries – the UK, US, France, Germany and India – to discover what business-related behaviours were considered most off-putting.
The results showed that nearly half of respondents in the UK agree that checking emails (49 %) or SMSs (45 %) during a meeting or lunch is rude and unprofessional, while approximately 51 % said not muting one’s phone line during a conference call was a no-no.
“This survey is an indication that even though communicating digitally may be quick and easy, this should not open the door to offensive behaviour,” Springer comments.
However, the findings were not limited to technological faux pas. The paper also revealed that 71 % of those polled in Germany found that not making eye contact during a handshake is discourteous. 46 % of UK respondents and 63 % of French respondents agreed with this.
Sending LinkedIn invites to unknowns (24%), e-mailing somebody at the next desk (22%), using text speak in emails (18%) and talking on the phone in public spaces (17%) also registered high on the ill-mannered list.
“It may seem a simple and obvious concept, but manners do matter and can help to build a business. How you present yourself creates a lasting effect on potential customers, whether in person, on the phone, via email or physical mail. Customers feel more secure dealing with a business which displays politeness and professionalism at every interaction,” Springer notes.
While mobile devices are convenient and essential, it is important to use them appropriately and know when to switch them off, says Springer. If you’re meeting with a prospective or a long-term client for example, your focus should be on them, not your phone or iPad.
“Respecting face-to-face meeting time, a confident handshake and not letting technology get in the way of creating a winning impression are simple ways for a company’ to succeed. A well-mannered approach can mean the small difference that sets a business apart from its competitors,” Springer says.