'Courtesy' baffles many young workers

The meaning of business courtesy is lost on many young workers, says Roz Parry, and she's not just an old fuddy-duddy.

Parry, a trainer in Reno who teaches a course in workplace telephone courtesy, for the past few months has surveyed young workers about the meaning of the word "courtesy."

Less than half could answer correctly.

Among the wrong guesses: "A prostitute in olden times." (A courtesan, maybe?) "A movement of the body." (Curtsy, maybe?)

"Courtesy is a lost art in the business world," says Parry, "Unless someone shows these young workers what 'polite behavior' sounds and looks like, how will they know?"

She's teaching a class in telephone courtesy through the Nevada Small Business Development Center in Reno on Thursday.

Among the lessons Parry teaches:

* Customers react to the tone of the phone greeting even before they hear the words. Tone of voice counts for 87 percent of the message.

* A monotone or mumbled greeting leads callers to believe that the entire company is unresponsive or lazy.

* A rushed or abrupt message tells callers that the company is unfocused and may be prone to mistakes.

"Training your staff in courtesy and customer service is one of the least expensive ways to increase your bottom line," Parry says.


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