Greeting Customers to Make a Lasting First Impression
When I was younger, I worked at a retail store during the holidays. It was always so chaotic and hectic trying to keep up with customer demand. One of the things that our manager would always stress to us was the importance of greeting customers that came in. He said that it would make them feel more welcome and appreciated, and ultimately result in better sales numbers.
I never really understood why this mattered so much until one day when a woman came into the store who looked exhausted. She had bags under her eyes and she looked like she just wanted to get her shopping done as quickly as possible. As soon as she walked in, one of my coworkers greeted her warmly and asked how her day was going. The woman’s entire demeanor changed instantly – she smiled, thanked him for asking, and said that it wasn’t too bad considering how busy it was this time of year.
After seeing this interaction, I realized just how important it is to take those extra few seconds when greeting customers as they come into your store or business! Not only does it show them that you care about their experience, but it can also brighten up their day – even if they’re having a tough time.
Greeting customers is the process of welcoming them to the store or business. This can be done in person, over the phone, or through other means of communication.
It is important to be polite and friendly when greeting customers, as this sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. In some cases, greeting customers may also involve providing them with information or directions.
How Do You Greet Customers in Retail?
Instead of always using the same script, try varying your sales greetings and wording. This will show your brand’s authentic side.
When training associates, it’s important not just to train them on how to answer common questions, but also to share your company’s brand values and mission.
Besides the fact that changing up your greeting adds variety, it also demonstrates that you’re aware of what’s going on in the store, that you’re an authority, and that you have a strong presence on the sales floor.
That presence is important as 75% of consumers place a lot of importance on this interaction.
Not to mention, it’s more personal. Each of your customers wants to hear a personalized message. If everyone hears the same generic greeting, it loses that personal touch.
Customer Greeting Techniques to Use in Your Store
To help us come up with ideas for new blog posts, we categorize customer-associate interaction into four different categories: small talk, familiarity, commonality, and orientation.
When you first see a customer, it is important to make eye contact and smile. This lets them know that you are happy to see them and are ready to help. You can then start with some small talk. Ask them how their day is going or if they found everything okay.
If you have been helping this customer before, you can ask them how their family is doing or how their project is coming along. If you have something in common with the customer, mention it. For example, if you both like the same sports team or have kids the same age.
Finally, orient the customer to your store. Let them know where they can find certain items or if any sales are going on.
Small Talk: Breaking The Ice
Making small talk with your customers is a great way to start friendly, personable conversations.
Small talk is a great way to break the ice with someone you do not recognize.
Instead of asking yes/no questions that will quickly end the conversation, try asking questions that will lead to a two-way conversation.
Building a relationship with a prospect hinges on that back and forth.
It’s important to follow up after getting responses from customers. The questions that you ask should be a natural progression of your conversation.
Examples of Small Talk Questions
- Are you enjoying your evening?
- How did you hear about us?
- Did you watch the game last night?
- Who are we shopping for today?
If you eat at Chick-Fil-A, you know just how amazing their customer service is. Their staff is always smiling, happy, and great at making small talk with you while you’re waiting for your food. They once gave me over a dozen complimentary salads that were about to go bad because they were about to close.
Chick-Fil-A has been ranked number one in their industry by the American Customer Service Institute year after year.
Familiarity: Nurture That Relationship
Familiarization is when you’ve met or seen someone before. You’ve already started a relationship with them.
It’s important to keep in contact with your existing customers. Make them feel like you know them and care about them, and they’ll be more likely to come back for more.
Take advantage of available tech. Some point of sale systems, such as Vend, have a built-in CRM feature that allows you to store information about your customers. This can help you keep track of past purchases and use this information to up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers.
You can tailor the customer experience for return shoppers by providing them with a more customized and personal experience.
According to research from Salesforce, 64% of customers prefer to receive personalized messages from retailers, while 52% will switch stores if they don’t receive such messages.
The regulars want to be a part of a community and feel as though they belong to it.
Train your employees to be friendly, but not overly chatty. Advise them to keep their conversations to one to two short statements, as too much talking can negatively impact the customer experience.
Examples of Familiarity Questions
- What brings you in to see us again?
- It’s great to see you again.
- Welcome back! How have you been?
- Did you have a good weekend?
- Coming in for another purchase?
Familiar greetings are a proven way to increase customer satisfaction.
Take hair salons for example. Stylists have a loyal client base. People go to the same stylist or barber for years so they develop a real relationship.
Many consumers will return to the same hair salon year after year because of the personal interactions and service quality that they get from their stylists. They develop a close relationship as they share personal information and stories. My own mom drives 45 minutes just to get her hair done when her hairdresser moved outside the city.
Think of your sales associates as personal stylists. They can help create that genuine, personal connection with your prospects.
Commonality: Establish a Personal Connection
This is when your sales team shares something about themselves (and by association, the company) with the customer. It’s about establishing a connection.
Your sales team is the face and voice of your company. By getting to know your clients and understanding what their specific needs are, you can establish a rapport with them that will make them feel like they’re being listened to and that you care about them. This, in turn, will foster trust, loyalty, and, ultimately, sales.
Examples of Commonality Questions
- I like your shoes!
- Wow, how are you navigating that traffic?
- Are you managing to stay dry with all this rain?
- Are you enjoying the summer?
- Have you been to the corner restaurant?
Be specific: Rather than just asking about the weather, ask ‘did you go out to enjoy the nice day?’
Be personable: Tell your associates to take the time to share a little bit about themselves, and tie it back to your company.
Personal testimonials are key when you want to create a sense of commonality. These testimonials must be both true and helpful to be effective.
Be genuine: Consumers can tell when you’re being fake, so it’s important to be authentic.
Your customer-staff interaction should be genuine to both your brand and your employees.
Be positive: In every interaction with a prospect, you should be upbeat.
Instead of asking when the rain will stop, try ‘you’re welcome to hang out here as long as you like.’
This is a great way to take a common problem, which can sometimes lead to frustration or annoyance, and turn it into a positive.
I was shopping for a new snowboard so I went to my local Christy’s shop to see what they had. The sales associate who helped me was very knowledgeable about the different kinds of boards. He based his opinion on his own experiences as a snowboarder, which I found helpful. He ended up selling me a board that same day.
When he told me he had the same snowboard as me, I instantly felt a connection with him. His genuine stories about his experience with the board made me trust his recommendation, even though I had planned to look elsewhere.
Orientation: Lead The Way
It’s important to orient your customers to the space in your store. By helping them to feel more comfortable, you can guide them to what they’re looking for.
In other cases, customers won’t tell you what they need so it’s up to you to guide them.
You could provide useful information they may not have thought about.
If a customer is shopping for shoes in your sporting goods store, you might point out the buy one get one free deal on athletic socks. This could help the customer save money and save time by not having to go to the sock aisle.
Examples of Orientation Questions
- Take your time to look around. Some people stay here for as long as 45 minutes just exploring.
- Would you like a basket?
- Can I free up your hands?
- How about I prep a fitting room for you while you look around?
- Would you like me to hold your cup of coffee?
- Have you found the item you were looking for?
Whenever I enter an REI store, I am immediately greeted and welcomed by an employee. They usually stand near the entrance doors to welcome and bid farewell to shoppers.
When customers walk in, they ask what products they need or which services they want.
The sales associate will walk customers to where they want to go and communicate with other employees in the store to help them. This is a great method for welcoming customers in and helping them navigate a large retail space.
Seasonal Greetings in Your Backpocket
During major sales periods (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Back to School), it can be helpful to have a holiday-themed message in your back pocket.
Depending on your situation, you can include the following greetings in your script:
- Happy Holidays!
- Need some gift ideas?
- Check out some of our in-store specials.
Best Non-Verbal Customer Greetings
Your tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions all play a huge role in how your customer perceives you.
First impression matters, so it’s important that you and your sales associates always dress professionally. The more professional you look, the more trustworthy you’ll appear.
The dress code depends on the kind of business you’re running. If you’re selling suits, then you would wear more formal attire than if you were selling toys. Regardless, make sure you always are dressed appropriately.
It is important to keep yourself looking fresh and professional by touching up your makeup, hair, and clothing.
Time Your Greeting
In retail, it is best to wait about 15 to 30 seconds before greeting customers when they walk into your shop.
This will give them time to get comfortable in your store environment. Greeting them too soon can be overwhelming so take your time before approaching a customer.
Your body language is important when interacting with customers. Keep your hands at your sides and make eye contact when speaking with them. Also, make sure you’re giving enough distance between you and the customer.
To better interact with your customers, put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to be greeted?
Genuine, authentic conversations will always beat out pushy, inauthentic ones.
Greeting customers is the first step in the retail sales process. If you take the time to greet your customers properly, you’ll be sure to leave a lasting positive impression. Not only will they appreciate your efforts, but it could also result in better sales numbers for your business! So next time someone comes into your store or office, take a few extra seconds to say hello and ask them how their day is going – you might just make their day a little bit brighter.