How Professional Is Your Small Business?

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As small business owners, we must be professional in every aspect of business: our marketing, our personal appearance, and our online presence.

I had a personal experience this past weekend that reminded me just how important business professionalism is.

The weather in North Carolina was particularly hot this past weekend, and at the worst possible time, our air conditioner decided to quit working. Ugghhh.

I called a local company to come take a look at our unit and hopefully provide a quick and inexpensive remedy. A technician came to my house, diagnosed what he thought was the problem (an old contactor part), and $199.77 later, my unit was blowing cold air again.

The unit ran fine for about 3 hours and then quit again. Needless to say, I was not very happy. I had paid two hundred dollars to sit in a hot house. Not cool (literally).

Even though it was almost 8:00 p.m., I dialed the number that the technician had told me to call if I had any further problems. Since it was after regular business hours, I received the “emergency” line. I explained my situation to the dispatcher, and she said that the technician on call would arrive at my house within the hour.

Up to this point, I had received professional service from this particular company. The dispatcher was helpful and efficient, the first technician had been prompt, neatly dressed, and seemed to fix the problem.

That all changed when the second technician showed up at my house . . .

DentalFlossPickThis young man wore a ball cap, a t-shirt, and shorts. What’s worse, he had a dental floss pick in his mouth when he greeted me at my front door. Yes, I said a dental floss pick. Nice.

Now, I realize that this service call was after normal business hours, but isn’t professionalism important around the clock?

Thirty minutes later, our air conditioning unit was working again, and there was no additional charge (thank goodness). Despite the technician’s sloppy appearance, he had done a good job. I was happy with the product but not with the professionalism.

This same concept applies to any small business. Our product must be professional, but so must every other aspect of our business:

1. Our appearance

Not only should we as business owners look professional, but our selling venues should look professional as well. This applies to our company logo, graphics, etc. What does the look of your brand say about your business?

2. Our response time

In today’s fast-paced society, customers expect quick turn-around times and prompt responses to their questions. Do your best to keep a clean inbox so that email doesn’t pile up and go unanswered.

3. Our speech and/or email language

If you speak with customers in person or via telephone, be sure that your language is professional (not too casual or filled with slang). If most of your customer communication is electronic, check your messages carefully before sending them. You never know what errors you might have overlooked or what tone you might unintentionally be implying.

4. The way we handle criticism

We all face criticism or unhappy customers at some point, but the way we react to those situations speaks volumes to our present and future customers. We must be careful not to rant about these situations on forums, Twitter, or Facebook.

I talked about the issue of discouragement and how to deal with it in this post: 4 Ways to Deal with Etsy Discouragement 

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Oh, by the way, look what I found beside the air conditioning unit this morning. Ah, yes, the infamous dental floss pick. The technician left it behind so I’d have something to remember him by. The professionalism just keeps on going and going, doesn’t it? 

FlossPick

Now, how about you? What steps do you take in your small business to make sure that every interaction with your customers is professional? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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top photo by kenyee     

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