Anne M. Obarski

Article Summary:

How to greet your customers properly.

Greeting Customers

Recently I read an article in a local newspaper paper about a nationwide chain coming into my area. The article said that the company had interviewed 1700 people for 200 openings. Happy people who smiled a lot did best. Isn't that interesting? They didn't say the people who did best were those who could sell ice to an Eskimo or those who dressed in designer clothes but people who genuinely looked happy. The article went on to say that employees should say "hello" to anyone who walks by. "If they get that furrowed brow look on their head, we ask if they need help." They went further to say that the employees are supposed to take customers to the items they want, instead of just pointing out the correct aisle. To me that is genuine customer service.

Tami, a "Retail Snoop" from Cincinnati, Ohio says, " I prefer being greeted when I enter a store. It shows that employees are interested in selling something to me. When no one says "hello" to me or even asks if they can help me with something, I won't buy from that store. "Retail Snoop" Laura, from Wausau, WI, however, says," I would like to be acknowledged when I walk in a store and said "Hello" to. What turns me off is a fake "Hello", as if they are doing you a favor by saying it. My findings frequently show that about 95% of customers still are not greeted upon entering a store.

What is worse is that the customer may never be acknowledged the entire time they are in the store. How sad. A simple smile, with direct eye contact is what most customers are interested in. Mike, Retail Snoop, from San Antonio comments, "Just having a good and generally happy attitude can influence me and the amount, if at all, I purchase." A simple genuine greeting is not hard to do but it needs to become a non-negotiable. And if smiling is a problem, inform employees that they can find teeth whitening kits in most grocery stores!

Don't pressure the customer.
They are not a "money sign" with feet. I have to admit I rarely have a shopper write comments on their reports that the sales associate was so pushy that they felt uncomfortable. I think as a consumer driven society, companies are learning that the "hard sell" of the past is a turn off to customers.

Our customers are now telling us that if and when I want help, I want someone close by to help me. One of my anonymous spies puts it this way "....I really dislike it when every associate wants to know if they can help me. I want to look over the merchandise without being hounded, and if I have a question, I will ask an associate." Customers have so many options of where to spend their money. They are also telling us that where they feel welcome and comfortable is where they will make their purchases. Don't "overkill" your style of greeting, however make sure someone is close at hand when the customer is ready to try or buy.

Customers are your reason for employment!
Interestingly enough, many companies seem to forget that. As I am writing this I have my speakerphone on because I have been on hold for 8 minutes with my doctors' office. And did I mention that this is the second time today I am going through this? You may say, "why on earth would you do that?" Well, you see, this is a specialist, and I trust the doctor and it's too much hassle to change doctors. Have you ever been there? It is frustrating and annoying and yet many of us continue to do business with people and companies that really seem to care less about us and our opinion of them.

As a past marketing director, Patty states it so plainly, "they just consider themselves the only game in town". If you think that is true, just open up the phone book and look under your business's listing. If you happen to find another business listed there, guess what, you have competition. If you'd like to really get scared, run a search on the internet for your type of business. I hear this excuse frequently, "I just don't have the money to staff the store with enough associates to give great customer service"! My answer is, do whatever it takes so as to avoid the following comments; "there wasn't any sign of a store associate; this was an open opportunity to invite shoplifting". Another anonymous secret shopper of mine said the following, " we waited at the register to pay for a pair of jeans and a shirt for 5 minutes and watched the sales associate working on the floor.

Finally, I asked if she could come ring us up. This store was a shoplifters' dream!" A customer never should have to go looking for someone to give their money to! Recently, one of my shoppers asked if she could use the fitting room and the associate yelled across the floor, "go for it"! Go for it? What type of customer service is that? Deb from Orlando states, "pay more attention to the customer than to the other associates in the store."

That same rule should go for talking on the phone while a customer is in the store. No matter who the associate is talking to, it is just plain rude. Finally, a California shopper summed it up this way, "they need to make the customer feel as though they are their number one priority. After all, the customer is not dependent on the store, the store is dependent on the customer". When you leave a customer waiting at the check out counter, or on hold for any amount of time, you are showing that person a lack of respect. All of us have busy schedules and we are taking time from those schedules to do business with you.

So how do you improve greeting your customers? Simply make some "non-negotiable" rules for your employees, such as; "no matter when you see a customer, greet them".

Anne M. Obarski is "The Eye on Performance!" As a professional speaker and trainer, Anne helps companies focus on the profit building service strategies that will keep their customers coming back. Anne presents nationwide keynotes, break-out sessions and customized training in the area of customer service. She has written "Surprising Secrets of Mystery Shoppers" and "Real World Customer Service Strategies That Work". For more information visit her website at www.merchandise concepts.com.

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