What exactly does the term “business ethics” mean? Why are ethics important in today’s wiifmw (what’s in it for me world?)
Wikepedia’s defines “ Business ethics is a form of applied ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is relevant to the conduct of individuals and business organizations as a whole.”
My definition is doing the right thing, all the time. No matter how difficult it may be. Being responsible for your own actions.
According to the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) companies that make a commitment to ethics and have a clear policy on ethics outperform companies that do not. The bottom line is ethics matter. It starts with how we treat our customers and up. People want to do business with a company or person they trust. And, companies that practice sound ethics and professionalism are rewarded financially as well.
There are many parts that make up ethics. Trust, commitment, truth, responsibility. You can’t have one without the other.
Trust is not a given—it is earned by our actions and words. When we make a mistake do we admit it to our customer, apologize and try to fix it? Or, do we pass the blame on someone else? When a client has a problem we should not be passing blame or making excuses. Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk when he was in the White House. The simple wooden sign said, “The Buck Stops Here.” In his farewell address to the nation, Truman said, “”The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”
As travel agents the buck stops with us. If we say we are going to get back to a customer we need to do exactly that. Call the customer back in a reasonable amount of time. I have had calls from clients that have told me they called XYZ Agency and they never bothered to get back with them. Are we guilty of that? Do we follow through? Do we make promises we don’t keep and hope the client doesn’t figure it out? Do we ask for feedback from our clients after their trip? If you are not doing that you should be. Do we honor commitments we make to others? Are we on time? Does our behavior and dress reflect our professionalism?
We need to be truthful not only to clients but to everyone. When I was 16 I learned a very valuable lesson about lying. I was in a hurry to go pick up my friends and backed into our fence that bordered our driveway. I knocked down part of the fence and the light post. Afraid of my punishment, I told my father that someone must have done it in the middle of the night. Upon further inspection my Father saw the tire marks and put 2 and 2 together. Because I lied about the whole incident—my punishment was worse than if I had told the truth. This lesson has stuck with me and is something I pass along to my own children. Always tell the truth no matter what.
Beyond clients—do we treat our vendors with respect? Are we respectful of our BDMs time? Do we ask for things we are not entitled? Do we abuse our agent rates? Which leads me to FAMS. FAMS are not a personal vacation. FAMS are a tool to educate agents on a particular destination or hotel property. Not to lie by the pool and work on your tan.
Our marketing materials, web sites, advertising etc, should reflect our commitment to our ethics and professionalism. They should contain original content and not be copied and pasted from someone else’s site. Likewise, we should not be using social media sites such as facebook, twitter or linkedin to bash other agents or agencies. Befriending a fellow agents friends on facebook and then trying to solicit them is not only unethical but inexcusable. Likewise, travel agent forums should be used to share information not to attack our peers. If you observe someone bashing another agent or agency—you need to report it to the moderators or speak up.
Ethics are important in both business and in life. By conducting ourselves in an ethical manner it benefits not only our bottom line but our profession as a whole.
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” — Alan K. Simpson.
Mary Stephan is the President of Allons Travel based in Powell, OH. For more information, you can contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.