Exceptional service is an exception to the rule

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So, you don't communicate so good! How do you think people perceive you? Is it professional or is it just OK?

As a business owner or a manager, you must remember that the people who work for you represent you as well. In fact they are you!

Example: You have a bad meal or bad service in a restaurant and then what do you tell people - "Don't go there!" You blame the whole place for one person. You do not simply say",Don't have Bob as your waiter", or",Carol was a lousy hostess." You blame the entire establishment. One person is the business.

I frequently refer to the dumbing of America. I think we are just getting dumber and dumber. If this wasn't true, wouldn't our service become better? In fact it is the opposite. It is the exception to the rule when service is exceptional or the people are just nice or even knowledgeable. In fact, when I have to buy certain products such as a car, computer, stereo components, etc., I find that I am educating the salespeople and this is not my job!

My preference is to buy from someone who is knowledgeable, articulate, and who understands the business. That is only the beginning!

Now we meet that person who greets us or calls on us trying to be professional and they say things like",That product ain't that good", or "Those people don't do it so good." Wow — I mean, I am still dumbfounded that someone actually hired a person who talks that way. Was the interview so different that in that meeting the candidate actually used the King's English and now he talks like he never finished fourth grade?

Hey, I am pretty stupid myself and actually graduated from high school with a 1.8 grade-point average. (I'm not too proud of that), but I manage to keep a sentence together with somewhat proper English.

So here's the deal. Are you listening to your people and, as Tom Peters said in his first national best-seller, In Search of Excellence, are you MBWA, or Managing By Wandering Around? This is how you notice things.

Here is a simple checklist:

  • Do you ever call in to your own company and listen to your receptionist?
  • Do you ever call your own customer service department and pretend you are a customer and see how they sound and how you are treated?
  • Do you ever go in the field with your sales staff and make calls with them?
  • Do you ever ride in a delivery truck and see how they are doing?

How do you interact with the people who work for you? If you have bad habits or language, I guarantee they will also — in time.

Communication, like anything, is part science and mostly art form.

To get better at anything you need to practice. For instance, as a speaker, I have a speech coach and so do many other speakers. To stay at the top of your game, like any athlete, one needs to practice and constantly improve. To build a better vocabulary put a small pocket-size dictionary in the bathroom and learn a new word each day. You will find people are quite impressed with someone who has a well-rounded vocabulary and you don't have to actually be smart — just act intelligent.

If you want to be treated with respect or your employees have that same desire, they have to earn it and one way to do this is to improve their communication skills. It can be easy and fun with a dictionary, a little practice, or even make a game out of it. Every day or once a week, each employee must bring in a new word and use it in a meaningful sentence. Then reward them with $5, or lunch, or anything that would make them feel good and proud of themselves.

Lastly, just like your advertising budget, put a budget together on training. All types of training. The more training the less turnover — I promise!

Reprinted with permission from Hal Becker, nationally known expert on Sales, Customer Service, and Negotiating and author of "Can I have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?"

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