“Do what you want but always be polite.” — Kennie Ting, Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum
I was at NTU the other day to attend the Convocation of the Class of 2017 (if you must ask, it was my little brother who was graduating!). The guest speaker was Kennie Ting and he had this piece of advice for the graduates which I couldn’t agree more, especially the latter part on being polite.
In Chinese culture, politeness is one of the first virtues that we’re inculcated with from young. As we get older, we begin to embrace other values, to challenge each of our own beliefs, and in the process, politeness gets displaced and sometimes forgotten.
Even though Kennie’s speech was addressed to the fresh graduates who were about to embark on the next big stage of their lives, I found it a nice reminder to myself too — always be polite, always be courteous, always be humble. In fact, I think this applies to everyone, regardless of what stage of your life you are in; what your standing in the society is; what your position in the corporate hierarchy may be.
Being polite is the fundamental rule of human interaction and since human interaction is a two-way communication, being polite is thus the beginning of a two-way interaction. In simple terms, being polite is a reciprocation which starts from one party. To me, this starts from oneself — when you are polite to others, they’d be polite to you. Don’t we all agree with the universal sentiment of how you should treat others if that’s how you want others to treat you?
In my opinion, politeness is especially crucial in the retail industry and more so in offline retail. The prevalence of e-commerce stores, along with its competitive pricing, safe payment methods, convenience of 24/7 shopping and ease of use, has wedged brick and mortar stores into the corners. To combat the threats from online stores, an offline retailer thus needs to set itself apart and one of the key differentiators to tap on is the face-to-face interaction between a retailer and its customers. I think a good starting point in this interaction with customers is being polite. Always be courteous and never be judgmental. These I believe are the basics of what constitute good customer service and is one of the ways how an offline retailer can retain its market share and build on its customer loyalty.
Being polite may seen so trivial but it should never be forgotten. Be it in personal or the professional facet, it’s something that we should always carry with us!
Back to the convocation, it was quite a sight seeing so many eager graduates and their proud families and I was absolutely basking in the high spirits and energy in the NTU auditorium!