Posts Tagged ‘Etiquette’


Are Smart Phones Killing your Employees’ Soft Skills?

?????????????????????????????????????????If anyone tries to convince you that the abbreviated language known as “social media slang” is appropriate for business, DBTS (translated: don’t believe that stuff).  I’m not saying that it has no use — it might be helpful if used judiciously in a tweet from your company Twitter account or in a quick text message.  But anyone who represents your company needs the capacity to write correctly — and exercise a degree of courtesy and respect during face-to-face communication.  Unfortunately, smart phone mania may be robbing younger workers of these abilities, known as “soft skills.”

Of course, during a time when customers want everything right now, employees with 24/7 connection via smart phones can be major assets to your business. But just as you have to train them about the processes that they need to know to do their jobs, you may need to include a little education in soft skills as well.

Re-teach the Basic Writing Skills That They Have Forgotten from School

These days, no one expects electronic messages to be error-free.  In fact, now that many email messages are written on smart phones, many people put a tag at the end, warning, “Sent from my smart phone.  There will be typos.”  But when typos, misspellings or grammatical errors make it into formal business documents such as bids and proposals, your business can be significantly affected.  At the very least, unprofessional wording can alienate prospective customers.  Even worse, your business can take a major financial hit when an unclear sentence is misinterpreted to your company’s detriment.

Everyone in your company needs to adhere to basic writing standards.  They also need to understand that spell check is an absolute necessity, but proofreading is equally important (unless you have managed to remove every dirty term from the word processing dictionary).  For formatting and overall tone, you can provide them with samples of great documents or even a style guide for documents.  But until they have your complete confidence, have a designated person with strong writing skills review all documents and have the employees make corrections so that they can learn from their mistakes.

Texting Does Not Replace Face-to-Face Communication

The brevity of a 140-character tweet or a text message does not lend itself to highly courteous communication.  Tweets in particular are known for their often-snarky tone.  But when your employees interact with the public, you don’t want anyone to flash back to a certain soup seller from Seinfeld. Your employees may need a few verbal communication lessons in a safe environment before you release them to represent your company in the real world.

Role play sessions can be fun (or at least tolerable) and educational for employees.  Whether you set up activities in lunch sessions (you bring the pizza) or as part of company meetings, everyone can learn something new about interacting with others.  You can run the gamut of scenarios — from greeting customers at the door to cold-calling prospective customers.  Then, encourage group discussions to gain benefits from the viewpoints of a variety of people with their own personalities and sensitivities.

Everyone Benefits from Feedback

You have probably heard the old adage, “praise in public, criticize in private,” but well-placed public critiques can help improve the communication skills of your entire work force.  Unless every employee is a Miss Manners fan, there may be occasions when you receive a valid customer complaint.  Of course, you don’t want to gather the troops together to announce that Customer A complained because John said this or Mary did that.  But complaints can point out the need for more finesse in one area or another, and everyone can benefit from this type of feedback.  By all means, make it public.

Soft Skills Begin in the Workplace

Putting a group of employees in close quarters for 40 or more hours each week can add stress to the environment.  Unless you want your workplace atmosphere to resemble a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving dinner, everyone in your company will benefit by learning how to communicate effectively.  AAMOF (as a matter of fact), they may be 4ever gr8ful.


Does Business Etiquette Still Matter?

?????????????In recent years, business has become very casual. Gone are the work days of suits, stationary, big titles, corner offices, secretaries, and power lunches. Small business is now done through email, video chats, texting, meet ups, social media and casual attire.

However, etiquette still matters in business and can be a competitive advantage for you. Here is how:

Attire: How you look still matters. While John T. Molloy’s classic “Dress for Success” maybe outdated, someone who is dressed too sloppy or casual will still not be trusted as a person that is dressed as well as their customer. Appropriate attire choices also must made for video chats unless you want to show your customer your workout outfit.

Writing: Since so much of communication is done in short informal manner, there is greater chance of miscommunication. Being able to write effective email communications is still an important skill and requires increased practice. This can be done by sending an email to a customer and then following up immediately by phone to make sure that they understood exactly what you wrote.

Dining: A lot can be learned by having a meal with a business associate. People can win or lose a deal, promotion or job based on their table manners. This doesn’t necessarily mean using the right fork, but still includes RSVPs, keeping your napkin on your lap, elbows off the table, and chewing with your mouth closed. Not sure of your habits? Have a friend take note at your next lunch.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): More companies are not issuing smart phones, but instead are having employees bring their own smart phones.  As a result, personal and business data are mixing on the same device. It is critical to set the rules in advance as to what type of access the employer has for inspection of that device and whether it can be wiped cleaned when that employee leaves.

Travel: More small companies are doing business in different countries.  They need to be aware of various business and dining customs, business hierarchies, displays of affection and alcohol use. Important customs vary by country and culture.

Social Networking: Many small business owners and employees have separate social media sites for business and personal use. However, their brand image on both sites need to be consistent since customers will do a web search that will cover all of them. Personal and professional lives can no longer be practically separated.

Also remember that different generations will prefer different etiquette so this will add to its overall complexity. A great guide for the small business owner is the 2014 version of Emily Post’s “The Etiquette Business Advantage

What business etiquette is most important to you?


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 6 Steps to Hosting a Good Conference Call

funny-video-conference-call-in-real-lifeHave you seen the funny YouTube video “A Conference Call In Real Life?” With more than 5 million views at the time I write this, clearly this spoof of common conference call missteps is hitting a nerve among businesspeople. To ensure your next conference call is focused, and not a fiasco, follow these steps:

  1. Treat a conference call like an in-person meeting. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean it requires any less organization. Choose a time that works for everyone, being sensitive to time zones. Send an invitation and get confirmation from recipients (if no one responds, maybe your invitation didn’t work, so doublecheck). Send a reminder the day before for good measure.
  2. Be prepared. Preparation is even more important in the virtual world than in real life. If people need to review data, make sure you send it to them in plenty of time for them to prepare. Create an agenda and let everyone know what you’ll be discussing.
  3. Take charge. Dial into the call early to make sure everything is working. As the meeting organizer, you need to keep the call on track while also ensuring everyone has a chance to speak. Make sure everyone introduces him- or herself at the beginning of the call, as well as throughout the call if there are people who don’t know each other well enough to recognize voices. Periodically check in with those who aren’t speaking up—they may find it difficult to interrupt others, so make sure their opinions are heard.
  4. Learn your conference calling tools and use them. Become familiar with the tools your conference calling system offers, such as the ability to record calls, mute voices or share visuals and data online. The last thing you want is to learn “on the spot” while on a conference call with a big client!
  5. Keep it short. With most participants sitting at their desks in front of their computers, it’s easy for them to get bored and start surfing the web or checking email during your conference call. Keep it moving quickly and try to wrap it up in 30 minutes at most so people stay focused.
  6. Follow up. End the call with action items so everyone knows what their role is. Send a quick follow-up email the same day summing up what was discussed, conclusions, next steps and deadlines. This should go to all invitees (even those who couldn’t attend) so everyone is kept in the loop. 

Mondays with Mike: Mnemonic Visions

How do you remember a question you want to ask when you don't want to interrupt a conversation? Learn how to create a mnemonic vision during a discussion from author Mike Michalowicz in this week's Mondays with Mike.


8 Rules of Business Email Etiquette

email-integration-2Most of us send dozens of emails per day, some of them for personal reasons, others for professional purposes. As Rachel Wagner, certified corporate etiquette consultant, trainer and speaker, explains, there are a few important rules to live by, especially when sending a business email.

Rule #1: Always be professional

“A business email should reflect the same style as a business letter with a greeting and a closing,” she says.

Even if the message is part of a long email string, it is good to keep a professional tone, regardless of how casual the other exchanges may be.

Rule #2: Make it brief

No one likes to read a novel of an email. To keep your reader’s attention, make your email short and to the point.

“Keep your paragraphs between two and four sentences and focus on putting your points in bullets or numbering them,” Wagner suggests. “This will make things much easier to read on a screen on smart phone.”

Rule #3: Be careful when replying

Most of us feel that we get too much email in the span of a workday. Lessen the pain for others by being selective with the “reply to all” button. Only use it when necessary, Wagner recommends. Send the email to the person it is intended for, not the whole office.

Rule #4: Re-read before sending

It can be incredibly easy to send an email quickly only to go back later and realize that your grammar was incorrect or that you misspelled a few words. Avoid these mistakes by taking a few minutes to re-read your email before sending it out, she advises.

Rule #5: Respond in a timely manner

“Try to respond in no more than 24 hours—its common courtesy,” Wagner says. “If you can’t respond fully, just write a short note saying that you are working on the request and will get back to them at a specified time.”

Rule #6: Don’t forget to attach documents

If you plan to attach a document, do it as soon as you refer to the document in the email. So often people forget to attach even when they indicate an attachment, Wagner says. It pays to attach right away so you don’t have to send a second email.

Rule #7: Avoid angry emailing

“We’ve all gotten emails that have made us bristle,” she says. “I recommend writing a response and then sitting on it for several hours, even overnight before sending. Put it in your draft box, re-read it and make sure it doesn’t sound too abrasive before sending.”

Rule #8: Know when not to send an email

When dealing with sensitive, even confidential information, consider alternatives to email such as in-person meetings and phone calls.

“Not everything should be done over email,” Wagner says. “Remember that email is not private, it can be sent to other people. So if you have a lengthy message to send or something you think may be misconstrued in writing, try an alternative mode of communication to get your point across.” 




 
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