Your Guide for How to Greet Customers

The way you greet customers sets the tone for a visitor’s shopping experience. Try these 10 tips when customers arrive at your store.

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You only get one chance to make a first impression. Research suggests that more than half of people want to be greeted upon entering a store and when beginning an interaction via phone or help desk.

Greeting customers is an opportunity to create an unforgettable customer experience. The proper greeting can convert one-time shoppers into loyal repeat customers and generate powerful word-of-mouth advertising.

More often than not, a customer remembers the small details more than what items they purchased. Making customers feel welcome is an effective customer retention strategy.

Wondering how to improve customer service at your store? These 10 tips can help you exceed customer expectations.

10 tips to greeting customers arriving in your store:

  • Personalize the greeting
  • Make it unique
  • Acknowledge them
  • Start a conversation
  • Create a community
  • Smile
  • Make small talk
  • Find commonality
  • Pause
  • Say goodbye

1. Personalize the greeting

Personalizing the greeting enhances the customer experience. Start by asking the customer what they’re looking for. This offers you an opportunity to provide specific recommendations based on their needs.

When they find something they like, they’re more likely to buy. This also gives retail staff a chance to show their expertise and distinguish the experience, which can set a shop apart from competitors.

Greeting a shopper by name is another way to personalize a welcome.

  • If it’s a new customer, introduce yourself. “Welcome, my name is X.”
  • When a regular customer walks through the door, say hello by name.

Exemplary customer care starts with remembering all sales are about customer wants and needs.

2. Make it unique but comfortable

Ever eaten at a Moe’s restaurant? If so, you’ll know the staff greets every customer with a shout of welcome. It’s unique but can be cringe-worthy for some.

Catchy greetings are one way to stand out from other retailers, but they must be authentic and used strategically to make the shopper feel comfortable.

Here are several positive ways you can greet customers.

  • Offer complimentary water, coffee, or tea.
  • Meet them where they are. An Albany, New York, credit union took to the streets to greet customers with a seasonal mobile ice cream truck.
  • Use animals. Dogs, parrots, cats, and other small pets can set people at ease and serve as a natural conversation starter. Recognize that not every person likes animals, so offer space for separation.
  • Learn greetings in multiple languages and say hello in the shopper’s native language.

3. Acknowledge their presence

No one likes to feel invisible. Whenever a customer steps up to pay, look them in the eye and acknowledge they’re standing in front of you. Sometimes shoppers need personalized attention when you’re waiting on another customer. Welcome the second person and let them know you will be with them as soon as you're finished.

Some retailers rely on the “10-foot rule.” That means customers receive a nod, a smile, or a hello anytime they come within 10 feet of a staff person.

4. Start a conversation

Skip asking customers, “Can I help you?” The fastest, easiest response is, “No.” Shutting down customer interaction from the get-go cuts down on opportunities to develop a longer-lasting relationship.

Instead, try these sales greeting techniques to start a conversation.

  • “Who are you shopping for today?”
  • “What are you looking for today?”
  • “How did you find out about us?”

Conversations that encourage a genuine exchange are powerful. Consider trying these.

  • “Have you shopped here before?” When the answer is, “Yes,” follow up with, “What was your experience like?”
  • When you notice the customer carrying a bag from a favorite store of yours, ask for recommendations they may have when shopping there.

5. Create a community

More than anything, people want to feel like they belong to a community. Regular shoppers feel appreciated when they’re remembered, addressed by name, or make a repeat purchase.

Just think back to the theme song from the sitcom Cheers:

“Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they're always glad you came ...”

Next time you see a repeat customer, try these questions.

  • “Welcome back! How have you been?”
  • “How did (the life event they mentioned at the previous visit) go?”
  • “Are you looking for more (insert product purchased previously)?”

Use your customer service software to add notes, track purchases, to make follow-up easier.

6. Smile

It sounds simple, but a friendly smile has the power to transform a customer’s shopping experience in seconds. Plus, a warm expression makes it nearly impossible for the other person to not respond. Leave fake, forced attempts at the door — they’re obvious and a turnoff.

Combine a smile with eye contact to show a customer that you’re genuinely interested in them and what brings them into your store.

7. Make small talk

Asking someone, “How are you today?” can be a loaded question. You might hear about the fight they had with their spouse, the trouble they got into at work, or the tension between their family members.

There’s a better way to make small talk that shows interest instead of getting yourself into a conversation you’d rather not have. Try these conversation starters.

  • Ask about the weather.
  • Use your products to get their input. If you sell books, ask what they’ve read most recently.
  • Mention a big game or event appropriate to your location and ask if they saw it.

8. Find commonality

Sharing a piece of yourself is part of building brand loyalty. One way retailers can achieve this is by finding commonality with in-store shoppers. Finding ways to connect is the foundation of relationships. Shared values, perception, or even style makes it easier for customers to relate to your brand.

Here are some examples of questions and statements to say to in-store shoppers.

  • “I like your ___ (jacket, jewelry, coat, etc.).”
  • “Has it stopped raining (or snowing)?”
  • “What are you looking forward to this afternoon?”
  • “How is the traffic?”

9. Give space

Not every customer likes to be greeted. Some prefer to browse on their own and initiate any interactions. Recognizing non-verbal cues and giving space to these shoppers is important to meeting customer service standards that vary from person to person.

Greeting customers with a simple hello or a welcome to the store may be sufficient at larger retail shops where shoppers come in with an agenda and want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Customers at boutique shops are likely to expect more than an acknowledgment.

Recognizing different customer needs sets you apart from retailers that offer a one-size-fits-all approach.

Next time you spot a customer in this category, try this welcome sentence. It acknowledges and offers space at the same time.

  • “Good morning. Feel free to look around, and let me know if you have any questions.”

10. Say goodbye

The cash register may complete the transaction, but it doesn’t complete the “sale” of your brand in a customer’s mind. The final impression is as powerful as the initial interaction.

Here are a few ways to conclude a customer experience on a positive note.

  • Say, “Thank you.”
  • Close with, “We look forward to seeing you again soon.”
  • Offer an invitation to provide feedback.
  • Walk them to the door.
  • Offer to help with getting an order to their car.

Remember to be natural

Customer satisfaction is what converts browsers into buyers and one-time purchasers into repeat customers.

If you’re wondering how to improve customer service at your store, evaluating how you greet customers is a great place to start. Most importantly, engaging with customers should feel natural. Simply being courteous and personable goes a long way.

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