The Litmus Test For Customer Service Interaction - How Do You Measure Up?

By Bob Phibbs

IMG_1842I was staying at the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise Ireland and walked into the restaurant to have breakfast. I’d never seen a breakfast buffet presented so beautifully, in such a well-lit and sophisticated setting.

I had to take a picture for Instagram.

After I took it, a young server came over to me, stood at my side and simply asked, “Is that the iPhone 10?”

I replied, “Yes it is.” She said, “I couldn’t decide between the 10 and the 8 so I got the 8. I thought it was bigger.”

“You should get it next time,” I said. “The facial recognition feature saves you a lot of time and the camera is awesome. Look at what I just took.”

I showed her the picture and we then talked about MacBooks before she gave me a brief tour of how the buffet worked.

You could build a business on her.


No fear. She was curious about me and took interest.

No hesitation to ask. She came right up to me.

She asked a question and built a conversation.

It made me feel special and I thought, I’m glad I met you today.

That must be the litmus test for every customer interaction.


And it’s not easy.

The whole point of what I teach in my retail sales training, not only in my online program SalesRX but also with my in-person trainings is that you don’t focus on being connected solely in order to make a sale.

Being connected needs no ulterior motive.

You have to make the shopper feel something positive before you ever try to sell them something.

You have to make the shopper feel they’re glad they met you that day. Few associates do that...

That’s why a lot of retailers are hurting today. Shoppers don’t feel anything because the employees haven’t been trained.

Here’s what I mean...

The day before my keynote in Ireland to 2000 delegates at the Retail Retreat, I went into Dublin. I entered 25 stores from the oldest department stores to the toniest boutiques.

Not one associate said a word to me. And I was ready to buy. That was over 3 hours of shopping.

And when I wondered if it was just me, I looked at the empty hands of shoppers in those stores. 

How can you possibly make shoppers feel they matter when your associates are mute?

It’s simple, the more social interaction a person feels in your store, the more comfortable they are...and the more willing they are to make a purchase.  

But when all your employees can only say is, Can I help you? or if they stand mutely while shoppers walk buy - like I found in Dublin - how grateful will a shopper be that they encountered that person?

Not very...

How much money is being left on the table in your store right now?

I mean, what are your trainers and managers doing? Or not doing?

Here’s the shocking thing…

Shoppers want to buy when they make a special trip to your store.

But that doesn’t happen unless they feel they are glad they met someone there.

I’m sure there are a few bitter people out there who will disagree vehemently with me, I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO HELP ME. They might even troll this blog. So what…

All indications are we are social creatures; we crave human interaction.  

That’s not watching a video of a live performance, it’s being at the performance.  

Seeing a picture of a friend isn’t the same as being with the friend.

And seeing a picture of an item isn’t the same as feeling it in your hands.

When you make that connection - before pitching product - you develop the energy between the two of you that truly engages them.

When their time in your store comes to a close, there is a twinge in their heart at having to let that moment go.

It’s the same thing you feel after a live concert and you know it is the last song, or when you’ve been deeply engrossed in a movie and the credits start to roll.  You don’t want that feeling moment to end.

That’s also the feeling, that once established, makes them want to return again and again.

See also, 7 Customer Service Skills Your Employees Need to Succeed

In Sum

Training your employees how to engage a shopper is the most unused, misunderstood, and least focused-on aspect of retailing. But because they haven’t trained their associates, retailers stupidly turn to loyalty points or coupons thinking those will make a true connection with the shoppers.

Shoppers crave connection.

If they don’t get it, they’re simply not in a brick and mortar store that can compete with Amazon and the rest.

To find out how I can help you overdeliver in customer service, use the button below.

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