The Pleasing Power of Purposeful Politeness

Fri, 22 Apr 2011 Source: Sarpong, Gideon Amoako

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

Columnist: Sarpong, Gideon Amoako