Updated: Apr 16
Connecting with your customer is a massively important aspect of retail. Hitting the right tone is critical to conveying a welcome atmosphere.
Welcoming your customer is just good business. The first hurdle is properly greeting them.
The front bell rang pleasantly as I walked in the door. Two staff members watch me enter. Both give me a pleasant smile and a polite greeting. I slowly scan the store. Them watching me. Me looking side to side. I wander over to a table and paw at a cardigan I have no interest in. I begin to feel uncomfortable. I want to leave. I muse that the associates don’t want to be too aggressive. They don't want to badger me. Instead they carry on as if I'm not really there. I look around the walls and absentmindedly nod. I think that’s enough and I make my way to the door, happy to hear the bell ring behind me.
When staff act like Mannequins… you have a serious problem.
Employees have to understand that they are not employed to be available but to be engaging, even entertaining. It’s not the easiest task but then again it is work, and they need to work at it.
3 tips to help you engage with complete strangers in a natural way.
One: A host never ignores a guest
Redefine the task. Think of this as your store. Don't think of customers; think of guest. Your guests.
Would you ignore someone who walks into your home? Would you casually carry on folding your laundry as they walked in? Not likely.
As a good host you greet everyone, take their coat and offer a beverage. (Sheldon Cooper would be proud) In this instance your greeting could include your specials, the layout of the store or the best way they can use your service. - Something light, refreshing and welcoming
Two: Nobody likes small talk; skip it. Start in the middle.
Spot a customer and convince yourself that they are a friend of a friend you had met at a great party. It’s great to see them again. You hit it off so well that no small talk is required. Your greeting becomes familiar. “Hey, good to see you!” Instead of looking for an out, you will look for a conversation thread to pick up. “Looks like you just came from the apple store. Did you see their new white cube? …Oh, it’s in the bag, a gift for your dad. That’s going to make his day. Are you looking for something else for him or is it time to reward yourself?” …the conversation flows from there.
It should never be a hard sell but an open and honest engagement. Using the host analogy, welcome your guest. Engage is a short conversation. Listen. Do you know of a product that meets your customers needs? Solving a need or desire increases a customers perception and approval of you, your service, your store and your brand. Like a good host your job is to make connections for your guests. Introduce them to new products. Inform them of related events. You can even go so far as to introduce them to other customers in store who have similar needs. You can learn a lot from two complete strangers engaged in a conversation around your product.
Last but not least; leave yourself an out.
Like all great hosts you need to work the room. You can't afford to stay with any one guest for too long. The more you practice; the faster you will connect with customers, find suitable products and empower your customer to explore their options. It's not your job to stay with them. It's your job to connect them with your brands core values and let your customers engage with your product.