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Opinions of Friday, 22 April 2011

Columnist: Sarpong, Gideon Amoako

The Pleasing Power of Purposeful Politeness

The monopolisation of certain undesirable practices by
business firms is a salient and yet unfortunate fact of the local corporate
world. Some have chalked tremendous ‘success’ in the arena of exploitative
promotions, deals and products. The observers of the telecommunications
industry can confirm the list of firms notable for phony promotions that
promise prosperity when nothing but penury is the ultimate grab. Others boast of
an enduring-and-not-enjoying staff of aggrieved workers who see the questioning
customer as a noisome bother, “a thorn in the flesh,” who must only be endured
for the sake of payslip. Yet still, others do and sing so well, the practice
and refrain of deeply regretting customer inconveniences occasioned by a
regularity of poor services. I leave the guess of the firms or industries with such
cases to you. Certain corporate bodies on the other hand, are living up to the
task and they must be commended for practically evincing an “understanding of
the times,” akin to the sons of Issachar in Ancient Israel. These firms, it seems,
have in their work fold
employees trained to discern the things that ought to be courteously said and
politely emphasized in these turbulent times, for the good of client, company
and country.

I leave the strategic decisions of fiscal investments,
product innovation and improvement to the experts and comment on that which I am
most familiar with, and equally important to the success of any commercial undertaking.
For there are repercussions when a bank
teller angrily turns on a customer for crumpling deposited notes. The bored counter
officer who prefaces her response to a customer with a harsh-sounding “I said!”
is a threat to company fortune and survival. The customer service representative or
at a university academic office does great harm to her establishment’s image
when she forgets the pleasing power of purposeful politeness. Many cases abound of
people who have severed their business
relationships with some banks, not because of recurrent network problems (which
unfortunately, come willy-nilly to some of our local banks), but poor attitudes
on the part of elegantly dressed bank tellers.
Some join long queues at banks only to be ignored, no, snubbed, by
tellers in the long run.

Sister, be not deceived. Good corporate image is built
on the foundation of satisfied customer interaction with employees. Hence, the
creative appropriation of wonderful or high-sounding superlatives by firms is
not enough, and no good surrogate for customers’ rating or perception of firms.
Let an employee be good and a customer will be better to deal with. Employees
whose duties involve direct interactions with customers are advantageously
positioned either to make or mar business image. Perhaps
they would be wise to be ever mindful of the time-tested business reality that
a customer requires much tact and effort than making one. Any dissension here? I
hope not. Just observe what is happening around you. Making a new friend is
easier than keeping an old one with his or her oft-repeated likes and dislikes.

As a well-known treader of the path of revolutionary change,
the 21st century has confronted cherished and prejudiced ideas and trailed
the blaze for the new. Yes, this cliché you might have heard for the umpteenth
time. Having lost its vitality and rigour through overuse, it nonetheless
remains a whole truth which cannot be invalidated by the human craving for new
ways of expression. Gone are the days when femininity was perceived to be
inherently superior in the field of corporate reception. It can now be emphatically
stated this responsibility
is no more an exclusive domain of females, as traditionally held by some employers.
Such erroneous notions have been the bane of many organizations that unduly
emphasized femininity to the gross detriment of know-how and congeniality (sure,
tactful congeniality). The world has suffered a positive shaking and the
entrenched notions of feminine suitability for secretarial and receptionist
responsibilities have been discarded, and thus, initiated an era where
competence cum character and not gender, forms the basis of eligibility in
these areas of employment. Be reminded sister, that competence is never in a
certificate. Your character and not certificate is that which the customer
considers. It seems as if there is a likable decree (passed by customers) that
degree should remain mute when decorum is on stage.

An interesting phenomenon of our time is the gradual
substitution of the receptionist with
front desk executive in literature
and job advertisement. Obviously, it brings to light a paradigm shift in the
corporate expectations of one so employed. By being tagged as an executive, there
is, without doubt, an
anticipation of proactive, active and tangible involvement in corporate
affairs. This necessitates the need for a dynamic individual whose vision
accommodates the practical realities and challenges of assignment as an
executive, a front desk executive. Others may go by titles different from this
but their roles essentially involve firsthand interactions with customers.
These include post office counter clerks, bank tellers, customer service
representatives, secretaries, account clerks, etc.

The organizational yearning for the projection of a
“positive image” places the front desk executive in a strategic position: “the
gateway to the organization.” I know of
no success-conscious organization that is oblivious to the refrain that the
attitude of a front desk executive peculiarly stands to influence the altitude
of his organization. In other words, character leaves lasting impressions on
the minds of clients or customers. The corporate world abounds with numberless
instances of failed undertakings and significant losses occasioned by carefree
attitudes towards the tactical job of receiving, welcoming, directing and
answering questions of customers and visitors. Thus, the need for the
cultivation of the spirit of kindness and a personal vision that values the
objectives of one’s firm and assiduously work towards its realization as part
of a team of motivated staff is highly imperative.

Attempts at organizational progress and development,
without the due consideration of a vision that creates focus and direction; one
that is communicated to all ‘team players’, is at best an exercise in futility.
Vision, as defined by W.F Kumuyi, is an “imaginative picture of a future state you
desire for
your organization; a mental portrait of change which is realistic and
achievable.” Thus, any comment on
the desirable vision of a front desk executive demands a broader understanding
of company vision and its implications for employee contribution and
commitment. A
serious-minded front desk executive should endeavour towards an encompassing
and unusual congeniality that would be particularly taken notice of and greatly
appreciated by all and sundry. Such receptiveness that smiles even in
exhausting, provocative and annoying situations, I believe is lacking in many
organizations, and accounts for widespread customer grievances and a somewhat
hateful dissatisfaction. It is sad to say that many customers have been
repulsed by blatant receptionist attitudes and thus wondered whether
professionalism and work ethics are only for a prestigious or select few.

Any business organization is bound to have regular
visits by people of different accomplishments, status and temperament. Such an
understanding is crucial to proper work expectations and decorum. The onus
therefore is on the front desk executive to develop a cheerful but dignified
sense of respect, so as not to add to the frustrations customers face in having
things done for them by employees dissatisfied with their routine job responsibilities.
The manner of addressing visitors should be meticulously examined for a
possible expurgation or ‘purging out’ of any seeming offence. Surely, a punctilious
attention to details
would be an integral part of the vision of any front desk executive who desires
to optimistically stand up to the challenges of winning hearts to sympathize
with his or her organization’s worthy cause.

Corporate Ghana is in dire need, not of a new
rendering in name and advertising gimmicks, but a new demonstration that seeks
the higher objective of excellence in customer reception. And we would do well to
accept the fact that
whilst it has nothing to do with extravagance
in dressing; it has everything to do
with character on the part of one
so tasked to daily interact with customers. Beware sister employee, “and in all
thy getting”, get and pocket this nugget for safe keeping – purposeful politeness
precedes positive progress – nothing more, nothing less, nothing in-between.

Amoako Sarpong

2010/2011 National Service Personnel

Gomoa Brofeyedru D/A PRIM & JSS.

Tel: 0243354091

E-mail: aca_education at yahoo dot com

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