The dollar is weak, so you would think the federal government would be doing everything in its power to encourage tourism.

Maybe they are, but you can't prove it by going through immigration at Newark International Airport.

The woman in charge of making sure arriving passengers end up in the right line to enter America spent the entire time I was there alternating between snarling and yelling.  (She is apparently of the belief that if English is not your first language you will eventually understand what she is saying if she yells loud enough.)

Once you have cleared customs, things are no better if you are going on to take a flight within the U.S.  (You can insert your own TSA horror story here.) So, I got to wondering what things were like on Amtrak. No joy there either.  Before we got underway on our trip from Manhattan to Boston the other day, we were yelled at--seriously yelled at--about the following:

  • YOU CANNOT HAVE ANYTHING ON THE SEAT NEXT TO YOU!
  • IF YOUR TICKET IS ON A SMART PHONE, ADJUST THE SETTING SO I CAN READ IT
  • DON'T THROW PAPER TOWELS ON THE FLOOR IN THE REST ROOM. (Really? That's a concern? Really?)

I am not telling these stories so you can relate. I am sure you have examples of your own. I told them to get you to reconsider how welcoming your buisness is.

No, of course you would not be as rude as the people I talked about, at least not knowingly.

But that is exactly the point. You may be doing something just as bad, without being aware of it.

After all, it is very hard for you to take an objective look at your business. Since it is, let me make three specific suggestions.

1. Call your main phone number (disguising your voice if you have to.)  Are you happy with what you hear (and how long it takes to get someone to pick the phone?) Would you describe what happens as "welcoming."

2. Log on to your website. Is it engaging? Friendly. Easy to navigate? Sending the message you want?

3. Easedrop on a conversation one of your employees is having with a customer, or potential customer.  Are you happy with the way it went?

I seriously doubt that anyone in an immigration line turned around and went home because they were yelled at.  (But I have no doubt it will have an influence on how they think about their time in the U.S.)

However, when it comes to your business, being off-putting could end the interaction before it begins.

###

Best-selling business book author (and Inc. magazine columnist) Paul B. Brown's latest, Own Your Future, has just been published by Amacom (The American Management Association's book division.)  Paul's blog appears every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Published on: Jul 1, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.