One of life’s oldest clichés is also one that’s difficult to deny: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Psychology defines a first impression as the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person, a crucial part of greeting customers.
Think about your day so far. You stop at a new gas station on your way to work and pay inside. If the cashier doesn’t look you in the eye, flatly asks, “What pump?” and silently hands you your change, you may or may not return. But if they make eye contact, flash a genuine smile, recognize you as a new customer, welcome you, make a sincere comment about the weather, shake your hand, or just hit a few of these points, you’re more likely to return. Why? Simply because they made you feel wanted and appreciated, a basic human need everyone shares.
In a sales environment, this first impression is tantamount to success. If a probable customer likes you, they’re much more likely to buy from you. When greeting customers, you’re judged on age, race, culture, language, gender, physical appearance, accent, posture and voice. You obviously can’t change many of these characteristics but you have total control over the last two, which just happen to be the most important: posture and voice. Stand up straight and speak clearly, using correct grammar.
Whether you’re selling a belt, a spider monkey or a monster truck, remember that it takes just one-tenth of a second for a person to judge you and form a first impression. This initial meeting impacts every aspect of your relationship with them and determines if you make the sale and how you will be remembered subsequent to the transaction. In other words, if you impress, you’ll likely be mentioned to other potential customers.
If you hone 7 simple steps of greeting people in business or professional environments, your sales will increase and your customers will sing your praises to others. Add your smiles of self-satisfaction and success to the mix, and it’s a win-win situation all around.
Stand to greet/Come around from behind counter.
Rising from your seat upon meeting a person is a gesture of welcoming, respect and confidence. In many circumstances, you can’t leave your position from behind a counter but your body language can still project that gesture of closeness. Even a tiny step forward or slightly leaning in toward the customer indicates you are interested in understanding their needs and satisfying them.
Make eye contact.
Looking someone in the eye lets them know you’re focused on what they’re saying and value their requests. Eyes that wander indicate disinterest and lack of respect. Your gaze should be warm and engaging, with a generous dose of empathy and appreciation, not so intense it intimidates, and not vapid and lifeless.
Much like eye contact, your smile is all about sincerity. We all have our fake smiles we display when we jokingly pose for pictures but we all have genuine ones that are so amiable and charming you can almost feel the deep and tender emotions behind them. Flash those pearly whites and you can almost hear the heartstrings of your customers being tugged.
Offer a verbal greeting.
Nothing beats verbal recognition when a customer enters a business. It’s a tricky area of customer relations as it’s easy to overdo it, and a significant number of greetings are ignored, no matter how warm and sincere, because many customers are multitasking on their phones or simply focused on the task at hand and oblivious to their surroundings. A simple, sincere hello is a good start, followed by an inquiry of, “How you doing today?” if you receive acknowledgement. If you sense they need assistance, gently offer, “May I help you find anything?” Avoid long, canned greetings that sound rehearsed and insincere. Remember that your main goal is to build rapport and confidence when greeting customers.
Offer a handshake.
Not all business situations are appropriate for handshakes but in restaurants, bars, service-oriented businesses, upscale retailers, car dealerships, etc., a handshake displays respect and sincerity in your efforts to meet customer needs. Use your whole hand, not just your fingertips, and grasp the customer’s entire hand firmly, but gently. Keep in mind the gesture is an age-old expression of mutual value and appreciation, simple and authentic.
Offer your name.
Sharing your name with a customer indicates you want to build trust; you don’t tell someone your most personal, identifying moniker unless you’re interested in establishing a connection with them. Again, not all circumstances are conducive to name sharing but most are and divulging such basic information immediately puts customers at ease and more comfortable in asking for assistance. The reason so many businesses require employees to wear name tags is so customers can identify them if they need assistance during their visit. Telling them your name strengthens that bond.
Ask the customer’s name.
The next logical step in building customer relations is asking for customer names. After you’ve divulged your name, the customer is more amenable to sharing theirs. When you know each other’s names, you’ve established a personal connection, a business friendship of sorts. However, as the old children’s saying goes, “That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” is applicable in these scenarios. Make sure you don’t overdo it and intersperse their name only occasionally in your interactions, keeping the tone of the conversation natural and casual.
After you’ve mastered the 7 steps to greeting customers, the rest of your customer service skills will naturally improve over time. People are so diverse and interesting, every day is full of new learning experiences. The number of successful and exhilarating encounters you have will always overshadow the less satisfying ones, and as your confidence in your interpersonal relationship skills gets stronger, you’ll enjoy your job more and become more proficient and competent in your role.
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