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Dripping faucet or fresh air: Which one would your customers liken to you?

Water Cooler Wisdom

Our faults irritate us most when we see them in others.

- Dutch proverb

Water Cooler Quotes Archive

What gets your goat? Several annoying things probably just popped into your mind. But how do you know what rattles your customers?

Do the wrinkles in your favorite comfy shirt make some of them recoil? Does a terse tone in your voice when you're rushing at the end of the day make them see red?

What about the time your cell phone interrupted an important meeting every few minutes? Your client said it was OK, but was it, really?

Of course, as a sales professional, you would never intentionally irritate your customers. You've worked long and hard on their behalf. You want to keep their business. But, if you're getting on clients' nerves you'd like to know, wouldn't you? Because when you're aware of problems, you can fix them.

Bypass the fortune cookies

The trouble is most clients won't tell you if you're affecting them like a burr under the saddle. They'll simply wait for their contracts to expire and move on. But don't resort to tea leaves or Tarot cards just yet. Thanks to a survey from market researcher TNS NFO, we have a bit of insight into what annoys people.

The survey of more than 1,000 consumers, commissioned by PetAgree Products, identified the top annoyances and irritations consumers encounter daily. Might you be guilty of infractions? Read on to find out.

_ Grouchiness: Are you a glass-is-half-empty or half-full type of person? If you see things from the bright side, you are less likely to irritate people. Eighty percent of survey respondents listed "grouches" as annoyances. So, smile a little more and do your best to be jovial, even when you aren't having one of your best days.

· Poor service: Providing quality service is another way to get on your customer's good side. Eighty percent of respondents listed poor service as a major frustration.

· Tardiness: If you are prompt, your clients are more likely to purr than roar. Fifty-nine percent of respondents reported they are irritated when people are late. No one plans to be late for an appointment, so set your watch a few minutes ahead of the actual time, and allow extra time for traffic and unforeseen delays.

· Disregard: You don't enjoy being left out, and neither do others. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said they don't like to be ignored. To let your customers and prospective customers know they matter to you, be sure to listen well. And make sure they can tell that you are listening. A good rule of thumb is to speak half as much as you listen.

· Phone abuse: Indiscreet or excessive cell phone use can also tick off your customers. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents listed cell-phone abusers as irritants. So, before you meet a client or potential client, make sure your cell phone is off, or at least in silent mode.

· Messiness: More than a third of respondents indicated they don't cotton to disorder: Thirty-nine percent said they were irritated by messy people. So, before you head out the door, your clothes should be clean and wrinkle-free; your shoes should be scuff-free; and your paperwork (especially any agreements that need to be signed) should be in the proper order and free of any spills, rips or wrinkles.

Be a peach

Much of this is common-sense advice. But in today's busy world, it's easy to rush through meetings or forget to comb your hair after you've stepped outside. So, become your own drill sergeant, only more kindly, making sure everything about your presence sparkles. You work much too hard to win and retain business to risk losing it to something petty and preventable.

Do your best to be pleasant especially when you don't feel like it. Be punctual, if not early. Provide exceptional service all the time. Listen. Be neat and organized. Use proper cell phone etiquette. Then instead of being like a piece of eggshell that's fallen into an omelet, you'll be like fine wine warming your customers' discerning palates. You'll have them eating out of your hand, so to speak.

Article published in issue number 060802

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