AML in Print

Get Rich Irish forget their manners.

By Phelim McAleer
The Sunday Times
July-25, 1998

IRISH people have forgotten their manners in the rush to make money, according to companies operating in the republic. A number of businesses have been forced to give staff basic lessons in etiquette, while others feel obliged to compensate for the rudeness of those using their service.

Eircom, a paging service run by Telecom Eireann, adds a personal touch to messages left for clients by inserting "please" and "thank you" as a matter of policy. "When our operators send messages to the pager they automatically insert these courtesy terms," said a spokeswoman.

Pageboy, which operates a similar service in Dublin and Cork, has also started to alter communications to make them less curt. "Most people do not say 'please' or 'thank you' when leaving messages, so we insert those words," said Ken Colley, a sales director at the company. "It makes life more pleasant for our customers."

While the boom has brought prosperity to many, some groups warn that as work absorbs more and more time, the quality of life on offer in the republic will deteriorate. Irish people, traditionally known for their genial nature, have less time to devote to niceties, a development that could cost them business in the long run.

Pat Delaney of the Small Firms Association (SFA) organises seminars on etiquette for his group's 7,500 members. "Life has become so fast that people do not have the time to be polite. But you don't get a second chance to make a first impression - good manners are good business. Ireland has developed rapidly in economic terms but in many ways our society has regressed. Twenty years ago good manners were expected, now they are noticed," he said.

Donal McAuliffe, who publishes Run Your Business, an industry magazine, sent his staff to an SFA seminar because he believes politeness is essential to business.

"Irish people are bad at leaving messages on answering machines or voice-mails - they tend to hang up instead," he said. "That is bad etiquette, because an answering machine offers an opportunity to leave a clear and concise message, allowing the receiver to answer your query."

Roseanne Thomas, president of Protocol Advisers Incorporated, an American manners consultancy, advises American business people on how to behave when visiting the republic. Among tips given to clients are: adopt a flexible attitude to time and a less rigid approach to doing business."The Irish are not very time-conscious and tend not to be punctual for appointments," she said.

Lisa Mirza Grotts, a director of AML Group, a San Francisco-based consultancy, said: "It all comes down to: 'Please', 'May I', 'I am sorry', 'Excuse me' and 'Thank you'. Each time you omit to use these terms, you are hurting feelings and profits."

Proinnsias Breathnach, a geography lecturer at Maynooth College, said a casual manner can sometimes act in people's favour. He conducted research into the republic's ability to attract call centres and found that foreign companies were impressed with the warm and relaxed manner of people here.

"Companies prefer Ireland to England, even though the wages are higher, because telephonists are warmer and chattier," he said. "English people tend to be more formal and polite. They say the right thing but come across as cold.

"Irish people generate more positive responses over the phone. They are better at making sales - also on information and technical support lines. The industry feels that Irish people are just better at it."