Retail Customer Service: Greeting Your Customers

February 12, 2015

how to greet a customerI walked into a Walgreen’s today in Minneapolis.

A pleasant young woman from behind the counter looked over at me and said, “Welcome to Walgreens.”

I nodded and 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.

What makes the difference between customers wanting to buy and wanting to leave?

Wanting to browse and wanting to take something home?

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

It should feel like you are welcoming a friend to your home.

What are those first precious moments like for your customers?

What are they noticing 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 and welcome the customer who just arrived.  

Discover how to provide excellent retail customer service with this comprehensive primer

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

But to actually engage a stranger.

It doesn’t matter if it is a luxury flagship, a tony 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 unwitting customers. They may be grouped behind the counter, or lurking behind a display or increasingly, texting on their smartphones.

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

Whatever they’re doing, if they’re not engaging with 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.

Is it any wonder mall traffic is down 15%

Meeting vs. Greeting

A simple Hi isn’t enough. Millions of people walk past the Wal-Mart 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.

Exceptional customer service comes from an attitude of both hospitality and assistance.

When that happens, the customer receives not only a welcome, but they have a face with a name, and they sense they will receive the help and service that they craved so much that they put down their smartphone and made the trek into the store in the first place.

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

Timing is Everything

So, how soon should this meeting occur? 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.

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

You never want to ask questions at the start of a tenuous relationship that can be answered with a no.

On the other hand if you wait too long, the shopper looking for a friendly greeting may feel ignored and become to some degree aggravated. I’ve walked into a lot of stores looking for a particular item that wasn’t where I intuitively thought it would be located. Each aisle I walked down raised my irritation level and boosted the chance of me going elsewhere or just ordering the item online. It sure would have been nice to have a name and face to ask for help.

Introducing not Imposing

The greeting is your chance to make a positive impression and set the tone for the entire buying experience. Maybe the client 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.

See also, Why Your Customer Service Has To Include Selling 

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 Welcome, can make all the difference between we’ll see and we’ll take it.

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