"True professionals stand out from the crowd and grow rewarding and satisfying careers." So writes Dennis Snow, consultant and co-author of Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service. "Once you are a true professional you can go just about anywhere. The skills are universal and they are very rare."
Here are the "seemingly small behaviors ... that would apply anywhere" that Snow says define a true professional:
"Professionals are responsive." Responsiveness doesn't mean frantically rushing from one person or task to the next; indeed, acting overwhelmed and stressed diminishes your professionalism. But making eye contact, acknowledging what a customer (or co-worker) might be seeking, making a sincere effort to address those needs promptly—all these behaviors, Snow says, add up to a message that you know and care that people need your help.
"Professionals are knowledgeable." Even your greenest front-line staff know more about your products, services and mission than do most customers. And, of course, the more they know, the better—there's no substitute for constant learning and improvement. But the trick, Snow writes, is knowing how to best use that knowledge. "Professionals read the situation and adapt to the knowledge of the customer. The employee can then best determine how to add value."
"Professionals care about what they do." "Professionals aren't happy just selling a product or service," Snow writes. "They want it to be the right product or service for the customer." But, you and your team may argue, we don't have the kind of time it takes to devote the utmost care and attention to each customer encounter. Snow's response is that a caring professional is better able to choose the most important things she can do to meet the customer's needs—which is ultimately more efficient and saves time.
"Professionals teach you something." "Think of some of your best service experiences," Snow writes. "The waiter who made the perfect recommendation, the computer help desk that gave you a tip on how to make an application more effective, or the clothing store employee who helped you coordinate colors. In most cases of outstanding service, the employee left you better than when he or she found you. You know more than you did before."