Greetings and salutations: How you welcome customers to your store can determine whether they feel comfortable staying, shopping and buying
3) “Can I help you?”
Which of those is the worst way to greet a customer? OK, we admit it’s a trick question. All three are inexcusable—likely to send shoppers running to your competitor across the street. “Hey” is not a greeting, it’s an utterance. Silence means you’re ignoring someone you are meant to help and “What are you looking for?”… Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
As impolite—and ineffective—as these are, we know that potential buyers are “greeted” in these ways every day at mattress retailers.
“Customers don’t want to feel that they are just customers and their only purpose when they visit your store is to purchase your product,” write the folks at RetailWiseUSA.com in a 2014 blog post. “Ineffective greetings make them feel this way.”
The purpose of a greeting is so simple: You want to make your customers feel welcome and comfortable. Simple, yes. Easy to pull off, not always. Never forget the basics: Start with a smile. Look the person in the eye. Introduce yourself. Shake hands.
Here are some more tips:
- Say something: We’ve all been in stores where retail sales associates pretended to be busy, chatted with other employees or stared at their smartphones instead of speaking to just-arriving shoppers. When it comes to greetings, silence is deadly—to the sale. And don’t try to get away with a gesture. Glances, nods and half-hearted waves are more dismissive than welcoming.
- Definitely don’t say this: Jeff Mowatt, a customer service strategist, speaker and author, thinks one of the most common retail greetings—“Can I help you?”—is also one of the least effective. “The visitor’s usual response: ‘No thanks, just looking.’ The problem is the walk-in customer is never ‘just looking.’ They came into the premises because at some level they perceived a need. This greeting only reminds visitors that they’re not here to buy.”
- Instead, maybe say this: Good questions to work into your greeting include “How did you sleep last night?” “What brings you in today?” and “Why are you interested in a new mattress?”
- Don’t hesitate: “Studies have shown that the first 10 seconds once customers enter the store can be a deciding factor if they will continue shopping at your store or step out in the next 10 seconds,” according to the RetailWiseUSA.com blog. “Customers want to be acknowledged and greeted within the first 10 seconds.”
- Make it genuine: You don’t want your greeting to sound scripted. It should be practiced but feel natural and, when appropriate, personalized to each customer.
- Don’t use busyness as an excuse to be rude: Being tied up with a customer should never keep you from greeting new ones. A simple “Hi. Welcome to Outstanding Sleep Products. We’ll be with you in just a minute” works well. Giving the new customer a bit of direction can be even more helpful. Point out a new adjustable base that’s on display or mention a promotion you’re running. Keep an eye on her and make sure someone on the sales team returns to assist her in a few minutes.
- Role-play: Take time during your next sales or staff meeting to practice greeting customers. See what openers feel warmest and most sincere.