Sunny Thoughts on Customer Service

By Mary Liz Curtin, 5/19/2009

Wake up shopkeepers! It is spring and we have made it through the dark days of winter. There are signs of life in the economy, popping up here and there like happy crocuses. Shoppers are less wary and business is picking up, thank heaven. Our customers are like gardens – nothing grows without nurturing, including sales. No manure jokes, please.

Greeting is Just the Beginning
How often do you read about greeting the customers? How, if they are not recognized within 5 seconds of darkening your store’s door, they will leave? We are all worried that we won’t say hello fast enough (especially those of us who have larger stores) and the shopper will never, ever return. Many big box stores employ greeters to stand at the door and do nothing but say “welcome” to those entering and look at those who depart to see if they appear to have stolen something.

No question. Greeting is very important. But there is a far worse retail crime than delayed greeting: The Greet and Drop.

In a business of any type or size, acknowledging the customers quickly is essential. But often it seems that we feel that by saying hello, the job is done and we can go back to paying bills or unpacking boxes or rearranging the merchandise or whatever we were doing before the shopper arrived. We simply assume that she will tell us what she wants or ask her questions and we will respond when she asks.

Once there is a potential customer in your place of business, whatever business it is, do more than greet, engage! Don’t just talk about the products you sell or the services you provide. A little chat about the weather, a sports team or the color of a sweater is a great way to begin making a friend, and your new friend will be more disposed to shopping with you once she likes you.

Keep an eye on everyone in the store, and not just to see if they are stealing. A customer may be strolling along in perfect contentment one moment and have a question the next. If you are not near when she needs you, she may not ask the question and you may lose the sale. Don’t smother, but do try to hover.

The Quick Comment
A casual comment can often make a sale. If you see someone looking at something, make a quick observation about the product as you walk by. Here are a few that work in our store:

  • “That is made in the USA.”
  • “Those are the nicest soaps we sell.”
  • “I use that myself and love it.”
  • “That scarf is perfect with your jacket.”

Some shoppers will start talking with you after a quick comment, others will just hear you and continue looking. If done casually, you won’t bother the shopper, but you will help her understand what she is seeing.

Get Away From the Counter
A successful salesperson is where the customers are…they are not behind the counter. Keep the staff on the floor and not behind the desk to maximize the time they spend with the customers, especially when the shop is busy. Time spent cruising the floor is always more lucrative than moments behind the register.

Successful merchants talk to their customers. They talk to them a lot.

A great-looking store and a friendly and attentive staff have never been more important than they are now. After all, when times get tough, the tough go shopping. Be ready for them to have a great visit to your store.


Mary Liz Curtin

Mary Liz Curtin

About Mary Liz Curtin