How to Greet Customers in Retail Stores

Bob Phibbs
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Do your employees know how to greet customers the right way? If not, you could be losing valuable sales and revenue-boosting repeat buyers.

Your greeting makes the difference ... from the moment they walk into your brick-and-mortar store.

It should feel like you’re welcoming a friend into your home.

Why greeting customers is essential

I remember once I walked into a Walgreens in Minneapolis. A pleasant young woman behind the counter looked over at me and said, “Welcome to Walgreens.”

I nodded, thanked her, and went on my hunt for Sudafed.

Afterward, I walked into Nordstrom and couldn’t get greeted — not a word out of anyone — and I was there for 15 minutes.

When it comes to customer service techniques, what makes the difference between customers wanting to buy and wanting to leave? Wanting to browse and wanting to take something home?

How you greet customers.

What are those first precious moments like for your customers?

What do they notice as they get their bearings and get focused on their shopping?

If your store is like most, one thing those customers won’t notice is a helpful salesperson.

They won’t notice a person who stops whatever they are doing to focus on and welcome the customer who just arrived.

Not to pitch something or ask some lame question like, “How are you today?”

But to actually engage a stranger. They don’t notice because the customer is busy on their own trip.

Yet employees will feel just saying, “Good morning” to someone is pushy so they avoid the very people who, in effect, pay their salaries!

It doesn’t matter if it’s a luxury flagship, a tiny retail chain, or the corner boutique...

Far too often, sales floors become a playground for poorly trained salespeople who are engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with your customers.

Doesn't matter if we're talking pre, during, or waning pandemic, they may be grouped behind the counter, lurking behind a display, or increasingly, texting on their smartphones.

Make no mistake, they are there for each other, but not to greet the customer.

Whatever they’re doing, if they’re not practicing how to greet customers, they’re not helping your bottom line. 

When a customer walks into your store and nobody offers to help them, it’s natural for that shopper to assume that nobody wants to help them.

6 professional sales greeting rules

Shoppers come to your retail store because they’re seeking an experience — the product they purchase is just a souvenir. 

So, how you greet your customers matters. It’s the critical first impression, and it can make or break your retail store’s success.

Elevate your customer’s experience and improve your retail ROI with these six proven ways to greet customers.

1. Greet customers politely and positively

A positive customer experience starts with a positive greeting. Be polite but also warm. Show a genuine interest in your customer. When greeting shoppers, remember to always do the following:

Smile 

Smiling improves not only your mood, but also the mood of your customer. Plus, smiling shows you’re approachable and likeable — two crucial traits of a successful salesperson. 

Give your undivided attention

Stop what you’re doing so you can fully engage with the shopper. Your customer will instantly get the sense that you care, and when you’re good at listening to customers, you’ll also pick up on important information that will later help you close the sale with ease. 

Make eye contact

Eye contact is a sign of a good listener. It builds trust and connection, and can even change how people think about you.

2. Learn the difference between meeting and greeting

A simple Hi isn’t enough. Millions of people walk past the Walmart greeters every day, completely ignoring their welcome. Why?

Because those greeters don’t evoke any feelings of helpfulness. We know they’re just standing there as part of a marketing scheme to give the illusion of helpfulness.

Such greeters don’t feel genuine.

How ARE you?

How’s it goin’?

Hi, let me know if you need help.

I hate that crap!

For shoppers to feel the employee’s helpfulness and welcome are genuine, the greeting must actually be genuine. This true desire to help often starts with the right retail customer service training.

3. Express an attitude of both hospitality and assistance

When you express both hospitality and assistance, the customer receives not only a welcome but also a face with a name.

The customer starts to feel they’ll receive the help and service that they craved so much that they put down their smartphone and made the trek into your retail business in the first place.

This immediately puts them more at ease and starts building the rapport that is necessary for an exceptional buying experience.

4. Remember that timing is everything

So, how soon should you approach a shopper who has just entered your store?

In most instances, give the shopper enough time to get through the door, arrange their belongings, and start scanning the sales floor. Fifteen seconds works in most situations.

If you approach them before they get their bearings and before they’ve decompressed from traffic and the hectic nature of their lives, you could be seen as an overbearing, needy obstacle who makes shopping a chore.

They may be running through a list in their head, putting their car keys in their purse, or just trying to get the lay of the land. Interrupting that process and demanding a response with some of those lame questions above can make you an instant nuisance ... and cost you a sale.

Why?

Because when you force a stranger to be polite — phony, really — you have effectively shut them down.

But if you wait too long, the shopper looking for a friendly greeting may feel ignored and become aggravated to some degree. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to greet customers. 

5. Introduce, don't impose

The greeting is your chance to make a positive impression and set the tone for the entire buying experience. Maybe the customer doesn’t want or need your help right away, and that’s fine. They’ll remember that help was offered and you were available to them.

You don’t need to stalk them. Just welcome them with an open heart.

Also check out: Why Your Customer Service Has to Include Selling

6. Avoid questions that can get "no" as an answer

When you ask, “Can I help you?” the gag reflex takes over, and the customer automatically says, “No.” 

Now the shopper has browsing (not buying) on their mind — even if they originally came to your store to make a purchase.

“No” also closes the door on further communication. It’s challenging to engage with a customer who has decided they don’t want or need your help, and it’s frustrating for your employees who just want to make a sale. 

Don’t let thoughtless questions derail your sales process. Instead, choose natural greetings that engage the shopper without bothering them. Here are some retail employee training tips for doing exactly that. And there are a couple of greetings to be aware of, the first when someone comes into the store and a second when you’ve given them some time to look around. 

Customer greeting examples

Let's take a closer look at the greeting: "Can I help you?"

It's probably the most common retail greeting there is. And on the surface, it sounds like an acceptable way to greet customers politely and positively. 

The only problem? As we touched on above, this question inevitably elicits the response: "No thanks, I’m just looking." 

To avoid this dilemma, after a visitor has settled into your store and you’ve greeted them with, Good (time of day), set the stage for a sale with these additional customer greeting examples:

"Have you been here before?"

When you ask questions, you show your customer you care. 

Even better? Michael Gerber, the author of The E-myth, found companies increased sales by 10 to 16% with this specific greeting (but you have to have a great memory).

"Good morning (name), welcome back!"

Show your customers you remember them and value their repeat business. A personalized greeting is always best (we all love to hear our names). 

If your staff struggles to remember names, they can still show recognition with a friendly: "Nice to see you again."

Give a genuine compliment

The secret to greeting customers with a compliment is to make it specific and relevant to your business. Otherwise, you might come off as sleazy or insincere. 

Let's say you own a women's fashion boutique. After you have initially greeted her with Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, you could greet a shopper by saying: "I love your floral dress. It's so bright and cheerful."

The idea is to initiate a two-way conversation and avoid small-talk greetings that are easily answered with a "yes" or "no."

Each shopper is unique, so how to greet customers in retail stores will vary based on individual personalities. Practice a few different ways to greet customers, and don't be afraid to come up with your own warm welcomes after your initial greeting of Good (time of day). 

The difference between we’ll see and we’ll take it

Even in the internet age, politicians still go out and shake thousands of hands during a campaign. Why? Because they know that a simple meeting can change a person’s entire outlook and turn them into a customer.

Greeting your customer with a slight delay and with the expectation that they will be nice to you, along with just the word Good (and time of day), can make all the difference between we’ll see and we’ll take it.

 

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