There is this famous Chinese proverb which goes … “A man who cannot smile should not open a shop”. During my two weeks visit to China (which I have written about in two parts of my previous columns) I was impressed when came across this proverb. I couldn’t help but notice that it is not only a saying but it is actually put in practice as it is part of the culture well integrated in business relationships in China.
In all the interactions I had with the Chinese service delivery people, they were smiling almost all the time. The smiling gesture showed the warmth and indicated that people were always happy to meet you. Even though speaking the language was very often a challenge, their smiles could just compensate.
These interactions in China made me wonder why this could not happen back home in Rwandan. Many times when one enters a shop or an office in Kigali, a smile is visibly the most missing ingredient. And this is quite strange because people outside their working environment are quite friendly.
I must confess that one of the things I appreciate in watching the Rwandan traditional dance is the big smile the dancers keep all the time. Curious about that, I asked friends what could be the reason and I was told that the first thing these dancers learn is how to portray a smile. They are actually taught how to smile even before they learn the first steps of the dance.
A smile has such a powerful effect on people that it is not only for traditional dances that it should be thought. If you are a business owner or a manager reading this piece now, you need to take time to explain to your front line staff the importance of Smile for your business.
Just like the Rwandan dancers are thought to smile, you should put time in training your team members to always wear a smile.
Make them know that they have the key to the success of your business. Do not just put anyone in a front-line job. Recruit people who are friendly and have the ability of creating positive interactions with customers.
Your front-line employees are essentially the ambassadors of your organizations as they have the opportunity to interact with customers on a face to face basis and help promote and represent your company and all the people working there.
One of my most profound experiences in China was the visit to the big shopping malls and markets. The sales people were most at times standing right at the entrance of their shops with such beautiful smiles. This of course was just to attract customers enter those shops.
There is no need to say that a first contact with a smile always creates a positive first impression. It is also said that a smile can cause boundaries to melt, hearts to warm up, and distances to reduce. Why then can’t we smile more often in our business?
As contact people, let’s note that without a smile, our attire is incomplete. A smile makes us look approachable. And that is why smiling should not be an option but rather an integral part of our jobs if we deal daily with customers.
Of course, smiling is not a standalone factor. It is definitely linked to internal motivation. As a manager or a supervisor, you need to treat your staff well and they will be able to keep the smile. A simple form of motivating your team members to keep the smile is to be the example yourself.
Live by what you preach. Greet your team members with a smile in the morning and they will be able to do the same with customers. Remember your staff is human just like your customers.
“A smile is a gentle curved line that sets a lot of things straight” says another Chinese Proverb. Another one says “Behave toward everyone as if receiving a guest” With all these Chinese proverbs on business relationships, your columnist understood better the secrets behind China’s growth today.