October 10, 2012
I walked into a bakery this morning to buy some bread and was greeted by an employee with a pasted on smile. As if to apologize for my need to wait, she rolled her eyes at me when the customer in front of me couldn’t make up her mind about what to order. When it was my turn, she was all business with efficiency and a small dose of friendliness.As I was preparing to leave, another employee gave me a great big smile. She said, “I see you in here all the time and I don’t even know your name.” “It’s Deb.”She replied, “Hi Deb. It’s good to meet you. My name is Pam. By the way, your nails are just beautiful.” I thanked her for the compliment and we proceeded to chat for a few minutes. She asked me what I do for a living and seemed excited to learn a little about my business. Her greeting and our chat completely changed my experience. I know that I’ll remember her name and she’s the person I’ll ask for the next time I shop there. Customers are people. Just like you, they have families, friends, interests, careers, fears and dreams. Sometimes they want to talk about these things, even with strangers. Unfortunately, some managers feel that chatting with customers is a waste of time. They tell their employees to focus on productivity instead of relationship building. This is a huge mistake. It’s a proven fact that high-growth companies know their customers well and encourage customer communication. Your customers often tell you way more than you need to know. You may hear about their Uncle Joe’s hernia operation, their Las Vegas vacation, their new puppy’s cute trick and their children’s accomplishments. These customers are sending you a clear message when they share these snapshots of their lives. They are telling you they trust you enough to care. Listen carefully to your chatty customers and acknowledge what they have said. The more you know about your customers, the stronger the connection they will have with you and your company. In addition to learning about their personal interests, you are also making it safe for them to share other information that is vital to building customer loyalty.The missing link in quality service delivery is the emphasis on productivity over chatting with customers. Don’t forget that making customers feel good about doing business with you increases not only sales but productivity as well. Chatting is a wonderful way to learn about your customer’s preferences, needs and expectations. This two-way communication is a key component for building trust.
Follow your customers’ cues. If they seem stressed or in a hurry, this is not the time to get chatty. But if they initiate a conversation or respond warmly to your compliment or question, don’t rush your service. View this chat time as an investment in strengthening a customer relationship that will translate into greater sales, referrals and yes, even productivity.