I have been so impressed with the response to the Covid-19 situation from many companies who are really trying hard to keep things going and do their best in trying situations. But at the same time, the Covid-19 situation has resulted in a tangible loss of professionalism in some companies.
I have been on the receiving end of such poor service in the last few weeks. Longer response times, promises that are made but not kept and lots of excuses.
I get it. Times are tough and we are going through a rough patch. We are having to adapt to change not of our choosing. But it’s tough for your customers too, and they are choosing to spend their hard-earned cash with you. You owe it to them not to succumb to complacency and mediocrity. You owe it to yourself and your business too. How you support and make people feel during these troubled times is what your customers will remember in good times.
We may have to cut back on many things, but professionalism is not one of them.
Being professional is about having strong skills and competence in your chosen field. There is a certain obvious expectation that you would have the experience and qualification to deliver your product or service. But this alone is not enough to earn the respect of your customers.
Professionalism is also about the qualities and behaviours you exhibit, and the manner in which you conduct yourself during your business affairs. True professionals possess a number of important characteristics that can apply to virtually any type of business.
A professional is neat in appearance. Be sure to meet or even exceed the requirements of your company’s dress code. Pay special attention to your appearance when meeting with prospects or clients and take your cue from the way they dress. Many of us have relaxed our dress code during lockdown. Make sure you are still projecting the right image, whether you are on a zoom call, or meeting in person.
Your demeanour should reflect confidence but not cockiness. Be polite and well-spoken whether you’re interacting with customers, superiors or co-workers. Just because you are the expert in a field, does not earn you the right to treat your customers like ignorant idiots. On the other end of the spectrum, just because you are a warm and friendly person does not mean you can call your new customer “sweetie”.
As a professional, you will be counted on to find a way to get the job done. Responding to people promptly and following through on promises in a timely manner is also important, as this demonstrates reliability. It’s about meeting expectations, which requires effective communication skills. Never assume. Clarify everything, especially when things change, to make sure you are always on the same page as your customer and to eliminate nasty surprises.
Professionals strive to become experts in their field, which sets them apart from the rest of the pack. This can mean continuing your education by taking courses, attending seminars and attaining any related professional designations. Now is the perfect time to build on your knowledge by attending webinars or reading business books.
Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and public accountants must adhere to a strict code of ethics. Even if your company or industry doesn’t have a written code, you should display ethical behaviour at all times. Right now, that means adhering to Covid-19 rules and regulations to ensure your employees and customers are safe.
Maintaining Your Poise
A professional must maintain his poise even when facing a difficult situation. When you are challenged or questioned you need to be able to state your case in a calm and structured manner and keep it factual, clean and to the point. This is where people with a high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) gain the most respect. There is nothing like losing your cool or airing personal emotional baggage in a tense situation to destroy your integrity, credibility and reputation.
Your phone etiquette is also an important component of professional behaviour. This means identifying yourself by your full name, company and title when you place a call. Lockdown and the subsequent increase in Zoom calls and Google meets has introduced a new set of etiquette rules that you should enforce in your company.
In written or email correspondence, keep your letters brief and to the point. Your tone should be polite and formal without being “stuffy.” Remember that your written correspondence is a paper trail and record of your transactions with your clients, so take care of what you say and how you say it. Use your spell checker! Use a standard font rather than ‘Comic” or a cursive font, and never, ever write in capital letters in an email, no matter how frustrated you are.
A professional can quickly and easily find what is needed. Your work area should be neat and organised, and your briefcase should contain only what is needed for your appointment or presentation. Make sure your background in your zoom calls is appropriate and devoid of clutter, and if you are sharing a screen, have the relevant files open and ready so the participants of the meeting don’t have to watch you navigate through your desktop.
Professionals are accountable for their actions at all times. If you make a mistake, own up to it and try to fix it if possible. Don’t try to place the blame on a colleague. If your company made the mistake, take responsibility and work to resolve the issue. Sometimes a compromise is necessary, you take it on the chin, learn from it and move on. Use an unfortunate opportunity to gain more respect from the way you handle a mistake or an oversight than if you had not made the mistake at all!
Your customers are not your mates. They are not your siblings. Or your punch bags. These are the very people that provide the income to your business, which pays your salary, which puts food on your table.
No matter how tough it is out there, professionalism costs nothing, so don’t cut back on it.
Whether you need to get your professionalism back on track, find your focus or work on the new reality of your business, I’d love to help you. Let’s have a chat!