Business Etiquette and Customer Service in the Digital Age

As we enter an increasingly technological, digital and AI-dominated world, it may be tempting to conclude that common courtesy and business etiquette no longer matter. However, even in this digital age, how people perceive and experience each other –  whether in the workplace or social settings –  is still a very important part of personal and professional success.
Polite behavior and decorum are still important,  and these unwritten rules still apply to social interactions and professional relationships. In the workplace, business etiquette includes appropriate manners and communicating with co-workers in a spirit of cooperation and respect. A person’s business demeanor and etiquette is noticeable – both when present or absent.
No one likes to work with unpleasant people. If you consider those who are kind, considerate and attentive to the needs of others, they are the ones who have lasting, successful relationships. Those who are rude, inconsiderate and inattentive are avoided by co-workers and usually do not enjoy lasting relationships, whether personal or professional.
It is through the practice of business etiquette that a company and its employees earn respect and trust from one another, as well the respect of customers, partners and stakeholders. As we discussed in our previous blog article Customer Care Begins at Home a congenial work environment is the foundation for great customer service and business success.

“Good manners are cost effective. They not only increase the quality of life in the workplace, they contribute to employee morale, embellish the company image, and play a major role in generating profit.” – Letitia Baldrige


First Impression, Last Impression

Making a good and lasting impression is an important aspect of business etiquette. An unkept or inappropriate appearance may be taken as disrespect for those who you work for and with. Customers and others outside the company form an impression of the company based on the outward appearance and demeanor of its employees. A careless appearance or rude behavior will give the impression that the company operates in a careless way, which could result in a decline in business. No one is interested in working with people who do not take their work and business relationships seriously. Perception does become reality!

Phone Communication

As the old saying goes: It’s not so much what you say, but how you say it, that matters. Using a friendly, helpful tone, especially when speaking on the phone, and making sure to always introduce yourself and provide your company title, will go a long way to earn the respect of a collegue or customer.  It also helps to speak clearly and use more formal language, so as to set the tone for mutual respect.
The person on the other line – even though they can’t see you – will feel your smile, so make sure to smile while speaking.
Regardless of your rank in the company,  and whether you are speaking to an employee or customer,  make sure to give that person your respect and undivided attention.
Starting and ending the call with an ice-breaker, such as “How is your week going?” or “Have a great rest of your day” can do a lot to create an instant bond and can truly make a person’s day.

“Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” – Mary Wortley Montagu

Online Communication

Business etiquette applies to digital communication as well. Social media, email and on-line chats or messages are now indispensable in business relations. Communication should be not only be polite but clear, precise and meticulously written. The unnecessary use of bold or underlined words, capital letters, different colors and too many symbols is not only considered immature, but extremely rude. It is also not professional to use emoticons when communicating with a business client or customer. In the spoken language, it is possible to explain immediately if the other person misunderstands a word or expression. However, in written communication, caution needs to be exercised to avoid misunderstandings.
It is also very important to respond to any messages in a timely manner. A brief response acknowledging the message, followed by a more in-depth response is preferable to a delayed reponse or no response.
The same applies to the personal use of email and social media. Also, keep  in mind that nothing posted online is completely private or personal, so it’s best to present yourself in an appropriate and professional manner on all online platforms, especially if you attend a school or college or represent a company with a strong online presence. In a previous blog article we discussed the importance of online reputation management. This applies to your personal reputation as well.

Body Language

Body language is the unspoken element of communication that we use – consciously or unconsiously – to reveal our feelings and emotions. This includes gestures, facial expressions and posture. When we are able to “read” these signs, we can use it to our advantage. For example, it can help us to understand the complete message of what someone is trying to say to us, and to enhance our awareness of people’s reactions to what we say and do.
We can also use it to adjust our own body language so that we appear more positive, engaging and approachable. In general, an open posture and a pleasant facial expression, a firm handshake, good eye contact and giving the other person your complete attention, will create a great first impression.

Social Interaction

Business etiquette does not begin and end at the workplace. Good manners at business gatherings, lunch or dinner meetings and parties are also important.
In this digital age which has helped increase communication between countries, etiquette has also become more globalized, and therefore more standardized. However certain manners do vary from country to country so it is important for a company to provide the ground rules that would constitute good business etiquette in all cultures and situations. With clear and  solid guidelines, employees will be informed about the appropriate behavior,  according to the context they are in, so as to avoid any dreaded “faux pas”. The ultimate goal is for employees or business owners to represent their business in the most professional and courteous manner possible.

“When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.” – Blaine Lee

Business etiquette will not only help avoid misunderstandings and potential conflict, it will help create a more harmonious work environment.
A harmonious work environment will empower employees to provide the best internal and external customer care possible, which, as we know, is the foundation for any company’s long-term success.

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Customer Service Institute of America