Greeting A Customer: Should A Smile Be Required?

By Bob Phibbs

smile at retail customerHow your employees should be greeting a customer is a frequent topic among retailers.

Recently, RetailWire discussed What is the Significance of a Smile? The topic was based on a report from the UK, The Lost Art of Loyalty which found:

59% said a smile and a friendly hello was the most common reason why consumers feel loyal towards small and independent retailers.

That’s good.

But only 54% of small and medium-size businesses stated their business employed this practice.

That’s bad.

Or is it?

Sales managers can tell you one thing has remained constant for generations; a friendly salesperson sells more than an unfriendly salesperson.

A lot more.

The old saw of hiring “friendly people” is great advice. Except that what you consider friendly and what your employees may feel is friendly can be worlds apart.

And when you add into the mix their feelings about having to sell, well you may be expecting your employees to dig a ditch when all they are coming to work with is a knife; they are ill-equipped to do the job at hand.

So you might decide to require every retail employee to smile at every customer. You might put it in your handbook. You might post signs at the register to SMILE.

So now they are to dig the ditch with only a knife and smile while they are doing it.

Nothing destroys chemistry in a store quicker than phoniness.

Let's back up a minute...

You have to start with why smiling is important - it should be an outward expression of an employee's willingness to serve.

While you can prevent some of that during your hiring, ultimately if you are concentrating on the appearance of friendliness over the intangibles of being friendly, it just won’t work.

From the luxury shopper to the dollar store shopper – everyone can spot a phony right away.

Yes, you can foster friendliness among your retail sales crew by introducing your best customers to your new hires and you can go out of your way to introduce them to each other, but ultimately, you have to be willing to pay to train the employee the process to build rapport.

You wouldn’t expect an employee to:

  • Cut hair without scissors..
  • Make a dress without a sewing machine or
  • Deliver a refrigerator without a truck

You would need to supply the tools your employees needed but didn’t have.

In short you need to be willing to supply the shovel before you expect the ditch.

So many retailers are struggling right now trying to increase conversion rates, attract customers and sell their best merchandise. Yet the competitive advantage of retail sales training continues to be lost on all but a handful of companies.

In Sum

Should a smile be required when your employees greet your customers? No.

Once they receive retail sales training and more tools to create an exceptional experience, they’ll do that naturally.

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