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Being nice pays off in a big way

“Always be nice” is something your mother may have taught you. Also, “If you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all.” These are good axioms for your personal life but also pay off big time in business.

If you don’t believe it, just check Chick-fil-a’s financial success. Employees of the very successful restaurant chain, Chick-fil-a are trained to say “please” and “thank you.” These are simple things that are the secret to the company’s success. According to a report, Chick-fil-a employees said “thank you” in 95.2 percent of drive-thru encounters, based on data from 2,000 visits to 15 restaurant chains.

Mark Moraitakis, senior director of hospitality and service design, stated, “It’s all about speed and accuracy, but we know customers appreciate that we know our customers appreciate that we can be nice while being fast and accurate.”

In 2015 Chick-fil-a generated more revenue per restaurant than any other fast food chain in the US. Average sales per restaurant was nearly $4 million. Superior customer service drives higher sales per unit and far outpaces other chains like KFC, Pizza Hut and Dominos with more than twice as many US locations. One of the big differences is hiring the right kind of employees and the amount of time and money the company spends in training their employees.

“Being nice” is undervalued in many businesses and other organizations. It really describes well the qualities of a healthy workplace culture. It inspires a higher level of employee engagement. Also when leaders of business and organizations possess this quality it filters down through the entire business and enhances teamwork. Being kind is a trait unfortunately lacking in so many people, being replaced with arrogance and egotistical behavior. It is not a sign of weakness but instead a true sign of positive deeds and actions. No one wants to work in or do business with an organization that is arrogant or ruthless.

The well know AFLAC duck was introduced back in 1999 by Kaplan Thaler’s small advertising firm. As it turned out AFLAC contacted her to pitch an idea for an ad campaign because of 2 referrals by individuals who were influential people that she had been kind to by taking the time to give free advice over lunch. Linda Kaplan Thaler won the lucrative contract and the AFLAC goose has since become a TV sensation. All due to being nice, kindness shown with no ulterior motive. The firm now has over 700 employees and accounts worldwide.

On a local basis there are so many businesses in Lincoln County who exhibit true kindness and genuine niceness to their employees and customers. One business that is an example is Brookhaven Monument Company. I spoke to the “family” of employees recently about customer service and communications. We talked about the importance of reliability, teamwork, listening to the customer, cooperation, going above and beyond for the customer.

In preparation for my presentation I interviewed several widows who had shopped for monuments for their deceased husbands. Following are the some comments I heard about Brookhaven Monument.

• The sales person was kind and patient, not pushy.

• He sold me something that I wanted, not pushing me to purchase something I didn’t want or was beyond my budget.

• Communicated with me regarding the order following my visit to the business.

• Accommodated an unusual request without flinching.

• When stone was received, it didn’t meet their expectations so they ordered another one that would meet the expectations.

• I was treated with kindness and respect.

I interviewed Dave Pace, the owner and when I asked him about his success after being in business for 70 years, the following is what he told me in answer to the question as to what has made them so successful.

1. Doing what you promise.

2. Under promise and over deliver.

3. Always be willing to take care of the customer.

4. Follow up communication with the customer is crucial.

These are simple but ultra important traits which will work well in any business in order to be successful. People who are shopping for a monument are often in an emotional state, having just lost a loved one. This kind of business has one shot, as there are few repeat customers. Personal testimonies and referrals are highly valued and lead to additional business. I found that the entire staff is engaged and understand the importance of good customer service, from the men who work on the stones in the operational area to the sales people who have the most front line contact with the customers. The employees obviously like their jobs and enjoy working there. The leaders appreciate the employees and what they contribute to the business. This cannot be over emphasized.

The culture of your organization will be very obvious to your customers. If you are cut-throat and arrogant it will show to your customers and result in a negative reputation and lack of business. If you are collaborative and kind where you and your team work together for the betterment of your company it will result in more customers and increased revenues.

There really is a way to be tough in decision making and a smart business person in running a business and at the same time exhibit kindness to those around you. It necessitates confidence, leadership ability, assertiveness, respect for others, being responsible, generous and happy. Quite an order, but very doable. Long term relationships are a direct result of these good business practices. Really successful people are not ruthless and harsh but smart and kind. These two traits really do fit well together.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.