How NOT to Greet Your Customers

It’s time once again for one of my “What Not to Do” articles for retailers. This particular experience occurred at a local discount retailer. I guess discount retail also means “discount service” for that establishment.

This is what happened…

I arrived a few minutes before the store was supposed to open and patiently waited for the clock to strike the 9:30 hour. When nine thirty came and went, I naturally thought, “Huh, I wonder what’s up?”

After about six minutes of waiting, I was surprised to see a woman appear on the other side of the double glass doors, frantically waving her arms. She was clearly agitated as she tried to motion to me through the transparent barrier, from about 8 to 10 feet away.

She scowled at me and vigourously pointed to the other set of doors. I could see her mouthing words that I assumed were probably, “Use. The. Other. Doors!” She  looked exasperated and continued to angrily gesture at the doors until I headed that way and walked through them, at which point she shook her head, shot me a disgusted look and stomped away. I hoped to heck that “The Grumpy Greeter” would not be the one to check me out when I finished my shopping!

So what can other retailers learn from my poor customer service experience? Here are the key takeaways:

Be aware of the type of impression you’re making on your customer

According to the New York Post, you only have 27 seconds to make a good first impression on someone. Furthermore, a study of 2,000 Americans discovered that 69% of those surveyed form a first impression of somebody before they even speak. I never heard a word my Grumpy Greeter said, but her gestures and facial expressions certainly said a whole lot of nothing good!

Interestingly, appearances alone are enough to cement a first impression within the first five seconds of your interaction. This means that it’s crucial to plan ahead for these first five seconds in every possible scenario.

And keep in mind, too, that 24% of customers who have a good first impression are likely to remain loyal for up to two years, while 95% of customers will talk about a bad experience.

Your store’s broken parts are YOUR responsibility…inform your customers

Often, when the whether is rainy or snowy, you’ll walk into a store and see a sign warning you to be cautious because the floors are wet. This indicates that the store management is being proactive about preventing slipping accidents.

The discount store I went to had no inclination to put up a sign informing customers to use the other set of doors. And frankly, from the perspective of a consumer, when that retail worker noticed me waiting outside, she should have walked out and greeted me with something like, “I’m so sorry our doors aren’t working. “Please come in…we’re so glad you chose to shop with us today!” But hey, maybe that brand doesn’t feel that it’s responsible for its own broken doors?

Here’s a reason it should…research from The State of Brick and Mortar Retail Report indicates that retailers who don’t proactively invest in their physical presence are prone to disappointing in-store experiences and bad business consequences.

Additionally, a new report from ServiceChannel found that the “basics” count when it comes to keeping consumers shopping in retail stores. Just one negative experience—such as a broken shelf or a parking lot issue—threatens brand loyalty and repeat business. The report also discovered that consumers expect brands to “handle the basics” proficiently, and are willing to spend more money when retailers deliver.

Don’t blame your customers for bad customer service

“Blaming someone for the failure/misfortune of a situation is a defense mechanism,” says Deskware. “Anytime we as humans get defensive, we react with our emotions and not with our rationality.”

My Grumpy Greeter reacted emotionally to the broken doors and it somehow became my fault that the entry doors didn’t work and that I couldn’t magically discern the problem and instantly head toward the other set of working doors to save her the trouble of flailing her arms at me.

“Whether you are a CUSTOMER, a manager, or employee, blaming ends up making things worse. If you want to be part of the solution, get rid of blame and blaming.”

~ Customer Service Zone

“Mistakes and misunderstandings will happen. The best way for you to stay proactive is to maintain a focus on the problems at hand and keep operations organized and consistent,” cautions Deskware.  

Final Thoughts…

Your customers are going to form an early impression about you and your brand based on your appearance, body language, mannerisms, tone of voice, facial expressions, and your demeanor. A grumpy greeting is not the way to start off the customer’s in-store shopping experience.

“Making a strong first impression will help you develop customer relationships and make sales,” states Business Queenland. From the moment you approach a customer, your behaviour, attitude and personal presentation will influence your customer’s decision to buy.”

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Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.