Greeting Customers: 10 Tips for Welcoming Shoppers to Your Store
This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
Greeting customers is an important part of creating a positive shopping experience and setting the tone for your store’s customer service. A good greeting will open the door for deeper interactions, create a welcoming environment, and let shoppers know what promotions or offers you currently have available.
Here we will take a look at the 10 tips for greeting customers effectively:
1. Write a Customer Greeting Script
The best way to set up you and your associates for successfully greeting customers is to write a sample script with an ideal or model customer greeting. I’m not implying that your staff should read off a document when talking to customers, but rather that you would have a training sheet employees can reference. I would recommend giving them the option of learning your script word for word or adapting it to their own wording, keeping all the important pieces in place.
Did you know?
According to the Forrester Customer Survey Index, the average customer experience score in 2022 was 71.3%, down from 72% in 2021. This is the first time that CX scores have dropped since the survey began.
Speaking of important pieces, the most important part of greeting customers is including all the information you need to create the desired environment in your store. Depending on the customer service you provide, you will want to greet customers differently.
For example, at my boutique, we strove to stand out from other local boutiques by offering the best one-on-one customer service at our price point. To immediately let shoppers know that this was what we were ready to give, we used our greeting to welcome customers warmly, tell them about all of our new products and promotions, and offer assistance.
A department store, on the other hand, cannot offer the same level of service, so that greeting might only include a brief hello, leaving store signs to keep shoppers informed.
When writing your script for greeting customers, avoid creating a false impression of your store, but also don’t leave out important details or neglect to let customers know you are available and want to help them. Here are the three main pieces you should consider including in your customer greeting:
- Acknowledgment: Welcome customers and let them know that you are there. An acknowledgment can be as formal or informal as your brand demands.
- Rundown: Let customers know about any promotions, discounts, or exciting products. A rundown opens the door for customer interaction but does not imply immediate customer service.
- Questions and offers: Ask your shoppers if they need help or offer your assistance, which lets customers immediately decline, delay service, or accept your offer. This also sets the tone for a very attentive shopping experience.
For example, you might provide a template greeting script that goes like this:
- Acknowledgment: Hello, welcome to my store!
- Rundown: We have a few sales racks in the back today, and are also doing 20% off any purchases over $100.
- Questions and offers: Is there anything I can help you find today?
2. Do Not Greet Your Customer Immediately
You certainly want to greet every customer; however, if you approach a customer too quickly, you can overwhelm them with information before they are ready. Wait for your customers to orient themselves in your space, get themselves situated, and begin to take stock of their surroundings. Once it seems like they are settled and ready to start shopping, hit them with your greeting.
Giving customers space and time to transition into your store doesn’t just apply to greetings. In merchandising and store layout design, the area at the entry of your store is referred to as the decompression zone, where customers decompress from the outside and settle into your space.
Look out for customers who enter your store in groups or while on the phone or talking with friends. For these scenarios, avoid interrupting any conversation and try to give your welcoming spiel only once. You don’t want to repeat it to every person in the group, although it might be necessary if the group disperses.
3. Be Positive & Enthusiastic When Greeting Customers
While your greeting should always be informative, it should also take a positive tone to make people excited about shopping at your store. Train your staff to greet customers positively. For example, “Hey, welcome in” sounds bored and disinterested, not creating a happy and positive environment. “Good morning! Welcome to my boutique! Is there anything that I can help you with today?” is a much more positive and helpful statement.
You do not want to force your staff to say things that are out of character or don’t sound natural—your customers will be able to tell they aren’t speaking freely. However, you do want to put some parameters on the tone you expect them to take for customer greetings. Using a positive affect and greeting people with enthusiasm will make your shoppers feel welcome and comfortable asking for service.
To encourage more enthusiasm from your staff:
- Require they follow their greeting with a question. This will force a conversation and show customers that your staff is attentive and wants to help.
- Use a temporal greeting. Good morning or afternoon sounds much more engaging than a one-word “hey” or “welcome.”
- A smile is really the key. Adding a positive facial expression to any greeting will make it more welcoming, enthusiastic, and positive.
4. Use Open & Friendly Body Language
Another small thing that will make greeting customers easier and more effective is your body language. When greeting your customers, you want to be sure that your body language is open and friendly, so people feel comfortable approaching you and asking for help. This kind of body language will also help set an inventing tone for your entire store, encouraging shopping.
Open Body Language
Closed Body Language
Open body language cues to customers that you own your space and are confident in your abilities to help shoppers.
Did you know?
The famous psychologist, Albert Mehrabian, found that 55% of communication comes from nonverbal cues, like facial expression and body language.
5. Create a Dress Code
How your staff visually represents themselves is a huge part of creating that first impression and setting customer experience expectations. The goal of any dress code should be to ensure your staff presents themselves professionally and in line with your brand image. Some retailers may require a strict dress code, while others hold looser standards—it all depends on your brand and the experience you want to create.
For example, at my clothing store, our dress code was very loose. You just had to dress “on brand” and “appropriately.” There was no requirement to wear things from the store, and people could dress with a lot of stylistic freedom. At the higher-end store down the street, on the other hand, staff members had to wear black slacks and a black top to create a more luxurious environment. Other types of businesses, like hotels and restaurants, will often require a uniform.
Implementing a dress code that is in line with your brand is part of building your associate’s credibility and demonstrating their interest.
6. End Your Customer Greeting With a Question
The best way to provide your shoppers with the most helpful customer service is to end your customer greeting with a question—not just any question, but one that gets them to reveal their buying intent and reach out for any wanted help. For example:
- Can I help you find anything today?
- Are you shopping for anything in particular?
- Is there anything special you are looking for today?
- Is there anything I can help you with today?
- Shopping for anyone special today or picking something out for yourself?
- What can I help you with today?
Ending with a question not only opens the floor for customers to ask for what they need, but it gives people space to delay assistance or indicate that they don’t want any service.
7. Learn to Interpret Customer Preferences
Some customers want you to assist them, while others would rather shop on their own. Your greeting should be welcoming and informative and give people a picture of the service they can expect; it should also provide space for customers to ask for and receive the kind of assistance they prefer. While your greeting should always offer assistance, it should not force it.
Did you know?
Customer engagement is up 14% compared to 2021, creating more opportunities to upsell or cross-sell.
As we covered earlier, the best way to provide this space is to end your customer greeting with a question. When training your associates to recognize customer service preferences, there are three main types of responses they should know:
- Decline: Customers who do not want help will decline your questions.
Customer: No, thank you.
Associate action: Provide space to the customer.
- Delay: Customers who do not want immediate attention but may ask for help later will delay your assistance but indicate why they may come back for help.
Customer: I am just looking for now, but I may ask you for help with jeans later.
Associate action: Be attentive but immediately give the customer space.
- Affirmative: Customers who want your help will ask for it when presented with the opportunity.
Customer: Yes! I am looking for a gift for my friend.
Associate action: Provide suggestions and assistance immediately.
Learn more about how to train your staff with our guide on How to Train Employees.
8. Introduce Your Promotions
In addition to offering your assistance, you also want your customer greeting to orient shoppers to everything going on in your store, including any promotions or special offers. This will ensure that everyone who enters your space knows about all the sale opportunities, increasing their likelihood of making a purchase.
Did you know?
64% of business leaders say that customer service has a positive impact on their company’s growth and 60% say it improves customer retention.
Ensure that you never forget to mention a sale by creating a flexible section within your greeting script where you include your rotating list of offers and promos.
9. Build Familiarity
Another way you can make your customer greetings more effective and open the door for deeper interaction is by being as familiar with your customers as possible. Use your greeting as a gateway to conversation and treat your shoppers professionally but familiarly in all your interactions. This will make shoppers more comfortable with you and your space and help foster their loyalty.
Did you know?
86% of customers will spend more at companies that personalize the customer service experience.
Here are two ways that you can build familiarity with your shoppers in your customer greeting:
The best way to get to know your customers and make them feel at home is to make conversation. This does not have to mean you talk politics or personal lives (in fact, I wouldn’t), but asking about your customer’s day, the weather, and other pleasantries is a great way to break the ice. Once broken, customers will be more apt to ask for your help or offer useful information for making a sale.
While many faces pass through your store doors, there is likely a group of loyal shoppers you see on a regular basis. To show them you value their loyalty and that they have gained special notice, use your loyal customers’ first names when greeting them. This will create a sense of exclusivity or VIP status and deepen their loyalty to your brand.
The best way to help your staff learn customer first names and boost recognition is to create a shared log where staff members can add the names, short descriptions, and shopping preferences of your most loyal customers. Another way to help with first name recognition is to give your associates a consistent schedule whenever possible, so they work at the same times week over week. This will boost the likelihood of their seeing the same people and recognizing them over time.
10. Create Rapport With Open-ended Questions
One of the best ways that you can turn a one-time customer into a “devotee” is to build a relationship with them by asking open-ended questions that will help open the door to a personalized conversation.
Devotee: As defined by Forrester Research, it is a super loyal customer who has formed a strong relationship with your brand due to their positive customer service experiences. Devotees are not just great because they are advocates for your brand, but they also spend an average of $1,855 each year at their “devoted” stores—109% more than non-devotees ($886 average).
Asking questions like what your customers did over the weekend, what their plans are for the rest of the day, or what types of activities they like to do in their spare time will not only make customers feel cared for and conversational but also opens the door for you to provide more personalized product suggestions and follow up with personalized details the next time you see the shopper. This will add to a customer’s sense of personalization and will help you build a stronger relationship.
Having trouble coming up with open-ended questions? Try these prompts (questions will generally start with “what” or “how”):
- What are you up to this weekend/week/evening/etc?: Ask about upcoming plans. This will give you the opportunity to suggest products that fit into your customers’ lives and will open the door for customers to share things they care about with you.
- How has your day/week/afternoon been?: Ask about a specific time frame in your customers’ lives. This will make them more apt to share specific details (opening the door for product suggestions) and will create a sense of genuine care.
- What can I help you with today? Rather than asking whether you can help, which will elicit a yes/no answer, ask what you can help your customer with. This will elicit a more detailed response and can open the conversation up.
- How is everything going so far?: Force customer to describe their shopping experience by asking how it is going. Avoid asking, “Is everything going OK,” as this will elicit a yes/no response.
- Follow-up questions: Be sure you show your customers that you are listening by following up your general queries with targeted questions based on their responses. For example, if your customer mentions they are taking their dog to the park later, ask what kind of dog it is, its name, what park, etc.
Asking “how so” or “what do you mean” are great ways to follow up on yes/no responses and start building deeper rapport.
A customer greeting sets the tone for your customer’s shopping experience and will cue people in on the customer service they can expect from your brand. As we looked at above, there are many things that you should consider when greeting customers, and all of them will help open the floor for customer-associate interactions and sales opportunities. Using the nine tips from above, you are ready to create an effective customer greeting for your business.
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