Uncommon common courtesy
Recently, a savvy service shop owner told me that the most meaningful aspect of "common courtesy" today was how uncommon it seemed to be.
I share this fellow's take on the topic. Mind you, personal experience and anecdotal evidence formed our impressions.
But I would bet that readers of this column — as well as many consumers — would agree with our conclusions.
My buddy also asserts that these impressions actually spell opportunity for alert owners and managers. He said he believes that emphasizing common courtesy and personal service are cost-effective ways to help tire dealers and service shop operators exceed consumers' expectations.
This is akin to the impact of building a positive business reputation: You cannot put a dollar value on exceeding expectations in an ultra-competitive marketplace because achieving that goal is priceless.
But let's not get too far ahead of this discussion here. Consider how pleasantly surprised consumers are after they have encountered respectful and courteous employees in a retail business of some kind.
On the one hand, some owners and managers I have encountered behave as if courtesy and respect are instinctive traits.
My buddy agrees, stressing that some colleagues treat respect and cooperation as foregone conclusions in a business plan. Their eyes, he said, are on some proverbial "big-picture" plan while the team members surrounding them fail to smile, greet customers, cheerfully offer help, etc.
Now, with all that said, these observations suggest several things. First, a boss may not have his eye on the ball. He overlooks potentially discourteous and uncooperative behavior simply because he is not paying enough attention to routine transactions.
Second, he may miss the extent of this undesirable employee behavior because he is a largely absentee — or perhaps apathetic — executive.
Third, he may be trying to avoid intervening. For one thing, he may be reluctant to invest in additional training for these needy workers.
For another, he may not intervene because he lacks the personal skills and enthusiasm required to coach these workers. (He, too, may be an uncouth or unpolished character.)
Fourth, he may resist intervening over rude or uncooperative behavior because it may antagonize certain employees. For example, I have met some highly successful service salespeople who show customers a friendly face.
But at the same time, these super salespeople are prima donnas who irritate — chafe — everyone else in the building.
I have worked around top-producing technicians who rank their fellow techs as peons and amateurs.
Frankly, some owners and managers tolerate turnover rather than try grooming these star performers into reasonable human beings.
In the sports world, some of the most highly respected superstars are athletes who promote cooperation, camaraderie and respect among teammates.
Likewise, top-performing employees in a tire dealership or service shop should help set a positive example for co-workers.
Make no mistake about it, grooming needy employees can be challenging work. If coaching and inculcating courtesy, cooperation and respect was easy, every boss would do it well.
But an unpleasant work environment and/or displeased customers are no formula for long-term success, either.