By Deborah King
“Your bearing, manners and behavior in any business situation largely determine your success or failure.” ~ Brian Tracy
People do business with those they like and trust. In fact, they will drive further and spend more if they know they will be treated well. Leaders understand the value of establishing and maintaining their personal and professional presence. They devote as much attention to their appearance and behavior as they do to keeping up the industry’s latest technical advancements. They understand that how a guest views their office environment, their staff and them personally is either building bridges or erecting barriers. First impressions do matter! In fact, a guest greeted in an unfriendly manner by a poorly groomed staff will be quick to tell others of their unsatisfactory experience – even if their service was performed well.
Arriving at work day after day, focused on the business at hand, it is easy to lose sight of what your guests see and experience when they come to your office. Creating and maintaining a positive first impression establishes an expectation of excellence. Once a week, try and imagine you are a first-time guest coming to your office. Look at the parking lot, the exterior of the building, the signage. If it is not your habit, enter through the main door and look at the waiting area, décor, magazines that are available and sit on the chairs. Walk to the counter and see what your guests see. Check the appearance and condition of the restroom. Walk the path of your guest and site where they sit and look at what they look at. As you leave, consider if the process is comfortable and easy to manage.
A polished appearance communicates cleanliness and professionalism. The image your staff presents each day must be consistent with your branding. One way to ensure this is to establish a standard of dress as part of your office policy. Without this standard, your staff is left to decide for themselves what is appropriate and you are left having to manage their interpretations. Most business leaders are not comfortable, or do not have the expertise and time, to address their staff’s appearance and behavior. Performance reviews on technical expertise tend to be easier to address because there are guidelines already in place. When establishing an office policy for dress, consider hair, nails, fragrance, shoes, clothing and accessories. These must mirror your branding. The more polished you and your staff’s image is, the greater credibility and trust you will have with your guests. Don’t forget the power of posture! Great posture not only supports good health, it also communicates confidence, leadership and excellence.
In today’s fast-paced world, with so much focus placed on technical expertise, there has been a tendency to set aside what is known as bedside manners. Yet, this attention to the thoughtful and polite treatment of a guest is more important than ever. Good manners are more than saying “please” and “thank you” – although these are very important. You must connect with your guest and make him or her feel valued. From the setting of an appointment to the initial greeting and to the follow-up, each action must reflect kindness and respect. When a guest calls your office are they greeted happily and promptly? Are their questions answered fully and politely? Once they arrive, are they acknowledged? The art of acknowledgement should be practiced by every person on your staff. The few moments it takes to make eye contact, smile and nod or say help will do a great deal to build rapport. Even a busy receptionist can acknowledge a guest when they are helping someone else on the phone. This small act is vital in making a guest feel valued. Leaders always set the example of what is expected by their staff in dress, grooming and behavior. Along with the example they model, they also establish a written code of dress and behavior that is consistent with their branding. They ensure that ongoing technical education is balanced with personal and professional development. Those who maintain a polished professional presence are viewed as more successful by their guests, their vendors and their community.
Deborah King, AICI CIP, is President of Final Touch Finishing School, Inc. which she founded in Seattle, WA in 1989. Deborah is a certified image professional whose passion is to help and project the best image possible. Her custom programs equip people from all walks of life in the necessary skills to be able to move confidently from informal to formal situations with ease and grace. Deborah is a published author as well as a reliable resource to the media. She is national and international speaker who is highly acclaimed for her expertise and warm teaching style. She presents to diverse organizations and corporations such as the University of Washington, Sam Noble Foundation, Microsoft, Boeing, Hilton Hotel, D Magazine and Cobb, Fendley & Associates. Since 2003, she has consulted for the prestigious Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley, CA.