Saturday, February 05, 2005

It's Courtesy, Stupid!

In my post "What Does Business Need" a few days ago, Ralph was kind enough to drop some comments back. It seems that Ralph is involved with customer service at an electric utility and has to deal with customers who are not quite on time with paying their bills.

You have to love people like Ralph who go to work knowing that he will have to draw the line on some of the customers he will speak with today and still maintain his professionalism while trying not to crush the self worth of the customer AND collect the money that is due. (Forgive me Ralph if I have assumed too much here).

After the initial comment, Ralph asked if I thought that some people dont feel like they deserve good service? Great question! It has stuck in my brain since it was posed and I have not been able to get past that.

First let me say that Ralph is a better man than I am already just for doing what he does for a living. I have to say no to customer's from time to time when they ask for more than they are willing to pay for, or for something we cannot do, or for something that is not in their best interest but that is not the same by any means. Hats off to you Ralph.

Now, its courtesy, stupid!

Customer service hell as described by Vince in a response on the weekly gripe ( speaks of customer perception and his opinion that top mangement does not have a clue of what the company is doing beyond their revenue and cost spreadsheets as service and rudeness go on and on.

In describing American table manners says that there is not much call for a complete working knowledge of table manners any more as families only meet together about once a year for a formal meal and restaurants are so casual that most anything is acceptable.

Teaching children good manners is the subject of with a more important follow up that asks "Do You Mind Your Manners". What kind of example are you?

From the Polite Child at to Raising polite children in impolite times by Wendy Burt at the trend is clear.

As we would once say, get em young before they grow teeth! There is never a child to young to be taught manners. However, today there are many adults who are without them as well.

Getting back to Ralph's question, do people think that the might not deserve good service I think it all comes down to this..... WORK.

Our parents generation and ours (not everyone mind you but many) were and are so self interested and so self indulged that the amount of work it takes to teach your children manners is just too much. No time, no interest, and the kids are so smart they will figure it out as we flip the channel.

Time outs and day care have replaced the work that parents once did or churches or schools. Now a days if you think of looking at a child in discipline or displeasure you may end up in jail or be derided for ruining their self esteem for life.

Its so hard that some of the sites listed and links therein are capitalists that will train your kids for you if you pay. Maybe its just outsourcing eh?

The same is true at work, good service and courtesy is work. Not as many as used to care about the customer perception that Vince longs for above. The new workers expect to be vice presidents in 3 years and want the first raise in 3 months and think they deserve it. Its all about work and what has happened to the work ethic that we once knew?

The upside is that business has a way of continuing its ways and conforming to the best in cycles. People who think they are the cats meow usually get a surprise when they get shown the door and those who just get by usually learn goodbye.

Courtesy and manners dont cost much, they dont take much time, they can make your day and that of your customer if you just slow down a bit and use it liberally. Yes, you will find that some dont know how to react to it and some will think less of you for it.

But just keep on pushing... the right will win and the manners will be what makes you and those who need to realize it will. So be yourself, that one who opens the door, who says thank you, and is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.



At 7:49 AM, Blogger Ralph said...

It's even worse than you guess. I work for a municipal utility and the customers I have to say no to are the owners.
Manners are indeed a problem. Mine are weaker and less principled than my parents (coming to adulthood in the 60's) and my sons are weaker than mine but more principled. This may not make sense as I try to pull out a clear thought here. My sons have a stong sense of right - particularly their right but not a strong sense of a right way to do things (courtesty and manners). They reject anything formal or specifically defined. To be fair, so does my wife. I look at the public graciousness that used to be common in America as a golden time. My sons see those times as rigid and formal - not human and personal.
They are both great young men. They behave honorably and with great compassion at times but without being bound by formal responses in a pattern.
In closing, I regret that we don't have all the courtesies and respect of former times in our interactions but I don't feel either that we are going to hell in a handbasket - so long as parents instill decency and respect in their children. They may not have manners as I recognize them but I think it will work out all right.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger livingthedream said...

Thanks again Ralph. Its not as bad as we can think, and in many cases its not the fault of who we think either, but we have what we have.

Courtesy and manners matter, and we, you and me and each individual has to start to raise the bar in each human interaction that we have or things will get worse.

Living the Dream


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