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Published On: Friday, 04 August 2017

Customer Service: Being Polite

Customer Service: Being Polite
Our world is order fulfillment or solution provider. So what level of formality is appropriate for your business? The answer to this question is a balance between formality and expediency.

- Lucy Glennon specializes in customer service training and recruitment and hiring. She can be reached at 866.645.2047 or lucyg@hireguru.com. www.hireguru.ca.

CUSTOMER SERVICE - What is polite and what is impolite these days? Does it depend on circumstances? Does it depend on who you're talking to? What is the standard for common courtesy these days? Are they my mother's standards, my grandmother's?

Or are there new standards today that don’t require the formality found years ago? Politeness can be defined as having good manners, or showing respect for other people. Politeness is alive and well among good customer service providers everywhere.

In my mother's eyes my grandmother was the old world standard when it came to how to behave and speak in polite company. She was a true lady, never failing to be welcoming, with impeccable manners, genuine and warm.

My mother used to say: if you wouldn't say it in front of your grandmother, then don't say it at all. Is this level of politeness even possible to emulate in today's world of texting, tiny attention spans, and tweeting? Do people expect that, or even want that? My answer to that question is . . . it depends.

Here's what I mean.

If I'm at a football game and decide I want a hot dog and a beer, I go out to the concession stands and join the throng of people waiting there. Do I care if they give me a warm welcome? No. I'm thrilled if the man behind the counter points at me and yells, "WHAT CAN I GET YA?" Short and to the point, just what I wanted in that circumstance. 

But, if I walked into my lawyer's office and someone greeting me in that abrupt, direct way, I would probably be offended. I expect a,  "Good morning and welcome. Can I take your coat? Are you here to see Mr. Smith? I'll let him know you've arrived. Can I get you tea? Water? Coffee?" That's what I would expect at a more formal circumstance.

But those two are extreme ends of the spectrum. Often we live somewhere in between the sports stadium and the law office where customers have problems or needs and they're looking for solutions. Or they don't know what they are looking for at all and can only describe their situation to us and hope that we can find a solution for them quickly.

Our world is order fulfillment or solution provider. So what level of formality is appropriate for your business? The answer to this question is a balance between formality and expediency.  Use client feedback to cater your level of politeness to match customer desires.