Just twenty years ago, if you went to a professional association meeting you would notice the men wore ties, blazers, and well-shined shoes. The women dressed in an equivalent fashion. People comported themselves in a professional manner.
Somehow, it became fashionable to set professionalism aside.
This is bad for business. It sends a message of apathy, of not quite being someone who can be trusted to do the job right. A common excuse for this is that “everyone is doing it.” Since when does a business stand out by not standing out? In a positive way? If you let a lack of professionalism commoditize you, why should someone choose your business rather than the competitor?
The legal definition of a “professional” is someone who is licensed by the state and, traditionally, someone who doesn’t work with tools (the list of professions is quite short, actually). This does not mean it’s perfectly OK for people without the license to act in an unprofessional manner, because in the real world you make an impression one way or the other.
To attract and retain clientele, you must make professionalism a cornerstone of how people at your company do business. Some examples of how to differentiate your employees from those of the competition:
- Dress. Have a written, specific dress code. Enforce it. Shirt, slacks, and shoes must comply with minimum requirements deemed appropriate for meeting your clientele. And no polyester (it’s unsafe for electrical workers).
- PPE. It’s common for residential, and even commercial, electricians to work without any PPE. Not even safety glasses. Imagine the PR problems when (not if) your PPE-eschewing employee is injured on the client’s premises. Imagine the difference when your people are wearing safety glasses. And each employee hardhat bears your company logo and phone number.
- Speech. Do your people know how to talk with customers? Listen in on conversations. If you don’t hear “thank you” at least twice, it’s time to conduct training.
- Documentation. Are your people keeping notes? A professional attitude means treating customer feedback (and observations about the site/work/equipment) as important enough to write down.
- Punctuality. If you want to lose customers, let it be OK to show up late. People hate waiting for other people. Don’t make them wait for your people.
Schedule time to think through what behaviors advertise “We are professional in what we do” and then make those behaviors part of your company culture.