How Employees Interact With Customers Matters

How your employees interact with customers can leave a lasting impression on them and your store. Don't let a bad apple spoil your lot.

How Employees Interact With Customers Matters

Pleasant attitudes and helpful advice goes a long way to building a relationship with customers. (Photo: NSSF)

Many years ago while working for our local newspapers, I and a few other co-workers had a bad habit of answering the telephone with a blunt "Sports!"

It could've been someone calling to find out about a kickoff or local  event, reporting scores and details, asking about the local wildlife organization banquet or our publisher. We weren't the only culprits, either. In some of our other departments you might call and hear "Photo  Department!" or "Newsroom!" while not knowing who was on the line other than a direct, possibly curt or rude, wretch of the Fourth Estate.

Yes, we were wrong. We just didn't think about it. Eventually, our publisher let it be known that phone courtesy was expected at 9 a.m. while you were having your second cup of coffee or 11 p.m. on a harried, high school football night deadline.

We shouldn't have had to be reminded about that but we were, and it was a good thing. No one likes to be greeted that way. Whether we were taking scores or criticism, it's better to start on and stay on the high road.

Have you listened to how your employees greet customers, or do you have a policy of some kind? Do you start out new employees with any training to make sure they understand your expectations? If not, you should.

It's one thing to have an employee who might be knowledgeable but a bit shy or introverted. While not a Chatty Cathy to every customer, they still can be pleasant, answer questions and impart knowledge. As long as this employee isn't actively hiding from or ignoring customers, your're fine.

But it's another thing to have an employee who gets along well with the staff but barely acknowledges customers or whose greeting is "Hey." This won't cut it. Even if the customer is browsing, and hasn't yet asked for assistance, he or she defintely doesn't need hear "Hey" and nothing else, or be completely ignored.

Where's the fine line on greeting and assistance? To me it's fairly simple: "Hello. Good to see you today. Is there anything I can help you with?"

If yes, it's game on to take the customer to the product or show it to them and ask some other questions. The customer may be ready to buy it. If so, offer help finding accessories or anything else. That's all simple and straightforward.

If the reply to your greeting is "Just looking around," it's also straighforward: not a problem, glad you're shopping here and if there's anything we can do to assist just let us know. Then, walk away.

We all can have a bad day now and then. My wife's late grandmother always said, "You never know what someone else is going through." She was right. An employee may have something going on with schoolwork, their spouse or family, unexpected bills or other things. Stuff happens, eh?

But a perpetually brusque employee, or one with a negative attitude, shouldn't be allowed to deal with customers. They may be the most experienced one you have about bows, rifles, fishing tacke or something else. 

Their attitude, though, will be what the customer remembers and that customer may not return. Take time to watch your employees' interactions with the public, and also with fellow employees. Breakroom banter can offer clues about how they interact.

If you see something, take time to deal with it instead of thinking it will just go away. Don't let a Negative Ned drive people from your shop.


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