I recently returned from a trip to France where I experienced first-hand how the French do business. What I love most about travel is that you get to observe another way of life and come back and share your findings with those who are curious about the world beyond their own borders. I share the following observations, with the hope you will take one or two (if not all) of these best practices and use them to enhance your company's reputation, improve your revenues and increase overall profitability.
1. Every customer is greeted before any business is done.
In fact, if you don't say, "Bonjour," the clerk will wait for you to do so prior to fulfilling your request. While some may find this bothersome, I happen to like it as I was acknowledged in every place that I did business, as opposed to here in the US where you can walk up to a clerk in the store and feel invisible. Perhaps it's time for US employers to go back to basics and train their front-line people to say hello to every customer, so they feel welcome.
2. Speaking of manners, I was always thanked for my business; at least I thought I was!
A smile was delivered with every purchase or check. When is the last time this has happened to you at a store or restaurant? Sometimes you get one or the other, but rarely both.
3. In France it's all about quality, rather than price.
I'm not going to kid you. Things were expensive there, especially given our weak dollar. However, the quality was first-rate. Starting with the pastries and ending with the clothing. After a while, you stopped counting Euros and started counting the moments until your next fresh baguette. Most consumers are willing to pay for quality, so why not charge a bit more and give people a better product? You may sell a few less, but in the end, you'll be more profitable and your reputation will have people lining up outside your doors waiting to do business with you.
4. It's all about style.
People were dressed fashionably, regardless of their job. You simply couldn't imagine a manager having to send a clerk home because they were dressed inappropriately. Yet here in the states a day doesn't go by when an HR person is reaching out to a colleague for help on how to tell an employee their work attire looks more like something Snooky, of Jersey Shore fame, would be wearing. US employers would be well advised to do a better job of managing their image. Be specific about your dress code and take action immediately when people arrive at work dressed for a night on the town or a day at the beach.
5. Work and life are one in the same.
French people manage to incorporate their personal lives into their work lives to make one life. For example, in the cities, the streets are filled with people riding their bicycles to and from work. In the US, we head to the gym before, during or after work to get our exercise. You'd be hard pressed to even find a gym in France. Yet here in the US, gyms appear to be on every street corner. Measuring and rewarding employees based on face time, rather than results, does little to encourage people to have one healthy life.
I'm sure the French can learn a lot from us as well. We'll leave that topic for another newsletter. In the mean time, I'm thinking I need to book a trip to Australia or China in order to continue my global research!
© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions (www.yourhrexperts.com) and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, In recognition for her accomplishments in client results, professional contributions and intellectual property, Roberta was recently inducted into the prestigious Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. She is one of a handful of international consultants to receive this honor. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.