Basic Business Etiquette - Good business ethics will set you apart

Is it just me, or do you often wonder if there is really anyone on the other side of that email address, or if that person who answered the phone is really employed by the company you just called?

As a company who offers practical marketing solutions for businesses small and large, I often have to engage in my own marketing activity. Depending on what my objectives are, I have a number of different marketing and communication strategies. These include either picking up the phone and setting appointments to present my companies credentials, or in some cases, sending out an email to the decision maker.

Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it may seem. Most often, emails sent receive no acknowledgement and phone calls are seldom returned. In fact, in some instances, even if my client has instigated a discussion, after replying to them, I sometimes get no response. My conclusion is that companies seem to spend very little on staff training, which includes training on basic business etiquette, which can make or break your business. You see, they forget that I too am a customer or potential customer of theirs and I also have the power of word of mouth and can damage their reputation amongst my own network of friends.

 “What happens if you spend thousands of Euros training staff and they leave you?”
 “Well what happens if you don’t and they stay?”

What I believe is basic business etiquette, seems to be overlooked and not seen as important in the image or positioning of a business. After attending a number of courses throughout my career on topics such as becoming world class competitive, it was always drilled into me that business needs to get the basics right, especially in a small competitive market. It is a big mistake to overlook these basics, as they cost very little to implement, but can be very costly if not.

The basics would be to treat your suppliers and customers as you wish to be treated, as you never know when you may need them. Having a negative attitude towards a supplier amounts to the same as having a negative attitude towards you customer. Good business etiquette should be part of your company’s culture and must be practised both internally and externally.

In my mind, the age old cliché of “first impressions last” is at the foundation of how you should behave and the culture that you encourage in your business. Somewhere deep down inside that mix of business activities, there are a number of reasons why you may or may not achieve success, some manageable and some not. So to reduce the chance of failure and increase the chance of success, manage the elements that you can.

Let’s touch on a few basics that you should be managing as a matter of course.

Image is important.

Your physical premises needs to give out an impression that lives up to what you are offering. You cannot claim that you offer high quality products or services, if your offices are an unsightly mess. If a customer or supplier comes to your offices, what impression will they have? Does what they see tie back to what you are saying you deliver?

With regards to employee appearance, what do you believe suits your business? If you are a casual business who offers students activities on an Island, then obviously your employees won’t be dressed in three piece suits, but if you are a professional services business, you won’t have employees dressed in shorts and t-shirts.

When guests arrive at your offices, they should be treated in a professional manner, by a trained receptionist and made to feel welcome and not made to feel that they are an inconvenience or irritation to the receptionist.

Besides some of the aspects that may seem to be quite obvious, there are also the other interactions that your employees may have with suppliers or customers that in many ways are even more important. This includes telephone and email communication.

There is a lot to take into consideration when employees are given company email access and means of communicating. Although the communication through email is done by an individual in their own capacity, they are a representative of your company and need to remember that they are portraying the image of your company in how they communicate.

This includes a number of aspects of the email:

The layout and appearance of the email – does the person use the correct font, what size characters are they using? Do they understand that capital letters used in in a complete word represent shouting?

How do they address to the recipient of the email? As in letter writing, there needs to be a certain format used when structuring an email. Greeting or salutation, introduction, body copy, conclusion and ending with name and contact details

All employees should use an email signature that is common across the company. Don’t allow individuals to invent their own signature. Standardise it across the company and include the person’s name, position in the company and contact details. In some cases the company logo can be used, and if it is, make sure that it is correct and that it has not been stretched out of proportion or changed in any way.

Believe it or not, sometimes I have received emails that include smiley faces, abbreviations and sms type slang. Have a GR8 day!!! This does nothing for the image of your organisation.

But what is even worse than this is when I send an email and I get no response at all. This does not only include enquiry emails sent to the “info@” email addresses found on websites, but also when I have sent an email to someone directly. I have had face to face meetings with representatives of companies and then when I send an email to them afterwards, giving them a proposal or quotation, I hear nothing back from them. Not even a short email thanking me for or acknowledging my communication and not just from employees, but from Managing Directors too. So if the leader is setting such an example, then it will be no surprise as to how the employees will behave.

I am sure that you get the gist of what I am getting at here and I would imagine that you have all had the same experiences and have been annoyed by it. The question is how many of you have been annoyed by it, but in your own organisation it’s the same.

All being said and done, it is the responsibility of the management of the company to lead from the top. This should not be a hit and miss approach as every company needs to have defined their positioning and part of this is the type of culture that they want to have in your organisation. Then it is up to the management group to breathe life into it. This would include setting up the parameters and requirements, conducting training regularly and ensuring that when new employees arrive that they go through a suitable induction program so that they know what is expected of them. You can’t really blame the employee if they have never been told otherwise or trained accordingly.

So next time you receive an email, remember to reply, even if it’s just a one liner acknowledgement. It’s these small things that you may be taking for granted that may make or break your business.

For more information or assistance, contact us at: and we will assist you in making sure that you do business right!