In a recent post for Inc. magazine, Board of Experts member Vanessa Nornberg shared how the stewardess on a cross country flight ruined what was supposed to be a rare, luxury experience for Vanessa. She deviated from her usual economy class seat to fly first class, because shockingly the price difference was minor. All set to experience what she thought would be a lovely flight with the best the airline had to offer, Vanessa and her fellow passengers instead experienced poor service and attitude from their stewardess, leaving everyone uncomfortable and reminding Vanessa of the importance of good customer service. At the top of Vanessa’s list of real and effective customer relationship management? Grace.

“Safeguarding the customer experience comes from teaching our employees something far more basic than the technical skills they need to do their job–it comes from teaching them the importance of graciousness.”

Before hardware, before customer relationship management software, even before technical training comes graciousness and tact in dealing with customers and prospects. Delivering an unpleasant experience to customers can literally cost you money in lost deals. To that end Vanessa shares her four tips for creating a foundation to properly engage customers.

1. Kindness & Courtesy – As Vanessa notes, “Manners are mighty.” Rule #1 of customer engagement is simple politeness and courtesy in speaking to customers, both internal (coworkers who need assistance) and external.

2. Treat Customers with Dignity & Respect – Vanessa used the example of an immuno-compromised man on the flight who attempted to discreetly have his seat moved, because he had been seated next to a woman with a cold, only to have the stewardess loudly complain that it wasn’t easy to move people around. A hallmark of customer engagement is to ensure that your customers’ needs are met, that they feel listened to and cared for.

3. Compassion is Key – When people feel shamed or embarrassed, they might act in ways that they normally wouldn’t – a reality that many of us have witnessed in others who’ve lost their temper in public after a problem they had wasn’t handled graciously by the staff. Vanessa points out that graciousness is the ability to do what needs to be done – even delivering bad news – while remaining compassionate to the customer’s needs.

4. Pour on the Charm – Charm involves an ability to interact with people in a positive way. It’s easy to find common ground with a person based on a shared negative experience, but that does not make for good customer engagement. Every interpersonal engagement, every phone call, every email should be built around delivering a positive experience. As Vanessa points out, it’s not just the customer who benefits.

“Graciousness can be learned–which means it can and should be taught.  And the added bonus is that graciousness is as uplifting to those who exercise it as it is to those who experience it.”

The biggest takeaway from Vanessa’s experience on that flight and her wise thoughts is the importance of ensuring that your company understands how to envision and engage with your customers. It’s customer relationship management at its most classic and most essential. CRM software is hugely popular right now as a tool to help service and sell to customers, but it won’t matter how state-of-the-art or fully integrated your CRM is if the HUMANS driving it don’t engage with a sense of grace.

You can read Vanessa’s article in its original form at Inc. Magazine’s website.

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Lewis Schiff is the author of Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons, the executive director of the Business Owners Council and the co-founder (with Norm Brodsky) of BEN Global Mentorship that helps business owners transform their companies into scalable enterprises and, eventually, enduring institutions with help from rockstar entrepreneurs from around the world.