“Can I help you?” How often have you walked into a business to be pounced upon with this generic (and not particularly helpful) opener?
Then at the other end of the spectrum, you’re doing laps around an establishment, trying in vain to track down someone to answer a question.
Either of these scenarios are frustrating and off-putting—exactly the impression you don’t want to give your customers.
A kind greeting isn’t just polite, it can also be a competitive advantage for your business. After all, everyone likes to do business with a friendly face. Experts even suggest that friendliness may be the key differentiator in how your company is perceived by customers.
A greeting is about engaging customers in a genuine way, not giving a stock opening line, or worse, missing that vital first impression altogether. Here are eight basics tenets to remember when greeting your customers:
1. Be Prompt
Ideally, you’ll greet your customers within 30 seconds of them entering your business. If you are in the middle of a task (that doesn’t involve another customer), stop what you are doing to greet your new customer. If you are with another customer, ask if he or she minds if you step away for a moment to greet the new arrival, then acknowledge the newcomer and let them know you’ll be with them in just a moment.
2. Offer a Warm Greeting
Make eye contact with each customer and smile. There’s no worse greeting than a blank-eyed stare. Replace the well-worn, formal “Can I help you?” with something more welcoming. “What brings you in today?” or “Have you been in before?” are improvements. When appropriate, introduce yourself as well.
Another rule of thumb: acknowledge a customer every time they come within 10 feet of you as they move about the store. Even just a smile or nod lets customers know you are aware of them and attuned to their needs
3. Read the Room
Follow social cues from each individual customer about the level of interaction they need from you. In some cases, a warm welcome is enough; in others, a customer will have specific questions. Don’t hover if your attention is not needed.
A greeting should feel like a normal conversation between you and your customer. As such, follow normal guidelines about personal space, volume, and the like. Don’t greet customers from behind or from another angle where they can’t see you—it can be an unpleasant surprise. Don’t yell across the store, but don’t stand uncomfortably close either.
4. Show Recognition
If you recognize a customer from a previous visit, say so. “It’s nice to see you again!” or “We’re happy to have you back!” are good options for a customer whose name you don’t know.
For your regular customers, make an effort to remember their names and preferences. This makes customers feel you value their business and prioritize their needs. Ask about previous purchases or services and how these items are working for the customer.
5. Offer a Sincere Compliment
A sincere compliment can further engage your customer, especially if it is specific and relevant to your business. If you own a salon, compliment your customer’s hairstyle as he or she walks through the door. Own a fashion retail shop? Comment on an accessory that the customer already owns. This will build your customer’s trust in your expertise as well as boost their ego a bit.
6. Escort the Customer to Products
Rather than pointing a customer in the general direction of a product they’ve inquired about, take the few minutes to walk them to it and answer any questions they may have. This shows attentiveness—and allows you an opportunity to recommend specific products or suggest add-on purchases.
7. Ask Questions to Personalize Recommendations
Ask appropriate questions to clarify what your customer is looking for. The more you know about what they need, the more you can tailor your recommendations to those needs. That in turn means they are more likely to buy, and to be satisfied with both their purchase and the service. It also highlights your expertise in the field and knowledge of your products.
8. Have a Good Exit Line
A great goodbye is almost as important as a great greeting. Let your customers know you are there to answer any more questions they may have if it’s clear they will be continuing their shopping. As a customer is checking out and leaving the premises, sincerely thank them for their business. The most lasting impression comes when you are able to include the name of your company in your goodbye.
Remember that interactions with customers should feel natural—just like any other conversation you might have with another person. Being personable and attentive goes a long way toward making a customer feel welcomed and valued at your establishment.