I See You AND I Don’t Care: How to “WOW” your customers away

Recently, I did several secret shopper visits in two small towns in the Midwest. I was expecting to experience exceptional customer service – the kind of service that just makes you think, “Wow! I wish I lived here.”  Unfortunately, my compared experiences of the two towns conflicted greatly.

Real World Story: In the first town, population 13,700, I visited nine businesses. I was treated well in one of the nine. (The next day, however, I bad-customer-service[1]discovered that the woman who helped and treated me well knew I was a secret shopper!) As a result of my secret shopping, I noticed that the common denominator in the bad service of the remaining eight stores was the obvious and overt lack of acknowledgement. In six of the nine, I stood in one place or walked around looking for someone to help me. In most of my visits, an employee would make eye contact, but would not smile or say a word. I felt my business was not needed and that I was not very important. I was made to believe that I was bothering them. In one store, two clerks kept talking to each other after I entered. When one of the clerks finally acknowledged me and asked if I needed help, the second clerk looked disturbed. The first clerk waited a few minutes then said to her colleague, “As I was saying…,” and continued her personal conversation. I left without saying a word.

When I later walked into a sandwich shop, I noticed four employees behind the counter and one at the cash register helping a customer. Although several of the employees behind the counter looked at me, not one said a word to me – including the employee behind the cash register. As the minutes ticked by, I grew extremely frustrated and anxious. It made me wonder, “Should I sit down? Should I order somewhere else?  Am I standing in the wrong place?” Finally, the customer at the register left and the employee looked at me and asked how she could help. Although she was pleasant with me, it was too late. I already had a bad impression and had no intention of returning.

walmart-people-greeter-eliminated-i6[1]In the second town, population 3600, just 21 miles away from the first town, the service I experienced was COMPLETELY different. I again visited nine stores, but I was acknowledged in all of them the second I walked in – either with a smile, eye contact, or a hello. In one store, after an employee asked if I was a visitor to her town, she offered me a complimentary wine slushy! What? Drink a beverage while I shopped? Was that allowed? (In the previous town, I was told in one store to put down my coffee on the front counter while I looked around – it was a thrift store!) Every store in the second town made me feel special – like I was a welcomed addition to their community.

Two different towns. Two different impressions. One basic principle:

It is a basic need to have human connection, and it doesn’t take much time to establish that connection with your business. When people feel like they make a difference, like they are important, they are more likely to associate positive feelings with your business. When customers have positive feelings about you, they will return, they will tell others, and price becomes less of an issue. And isn’t that what we want, to have loyal customers who don’t argue about price and who tell others about our businesses?

Strategies that Turn it Around:
How to make customers feel important:

  1. Within the first 10 seconds of a customer entering your establishment, acknowledge them. (This could be a simple smile, eye contact, or simply say “Hello” – something.)
  2. If you are already with a customer, a quick glance at an incoming customer, with good eye contact and a smile, go a long way.
  3. After the customer has browsed for a minute, ask, “May I help you find something?” The shopper who wants to be left alone will say, “NO.” The customer who wants a deeper connection will say, “Yes.”
  4. When the customer says Yes (to #3), here’s your chance to really make a great impression. Practice your listening skills and over-deliver.

Remember: All human beings need to be liked and appreciated. A smile from another person or a word of acceptance can go a long way in creating positive feeling about you AND your business. AND it just may brighten their day – especially if they’ve just had a wine slushy.

What do YOU do to acknowledge customers immediately? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

17 Responses to “I See You AND I Don’t Care: How to “WOW” your customers away”

  1. 1 Steve DiGioia June 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Unfortunately, many of the basic customer service skills are never taught to the employees.

  2. 3 Kathleen R June 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I think there is a 3rd type of customer, the one who says, I’m just looking. I’m that customer. I’m open to the deeper connection, but more introverted AND I may not have something specific in mind. I may want YOU to show me what’s awesome and cool – that would be perfect for me! Sometimes I call it “shopping for a sales person.”

  3. 5 Teri Ouimette June 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Having mentioned that, there will normally be a basic structure to the questionnaire that will apply to most assignments. This will include:
    • First impressions
    • Salesperson approach
    • Salesperson selling skills
    • Closing the sale
    • Customer satisfaction
    • Overall shopping experience
    Many of the questions will require answers in a multiple choice format, Yes/No, Excellent, Very Good, Satisfactory, Poor, Unacceptable etc
    Some questions will then ask for additional information, and this is where most difficulty is experienced. Just remember that all your sponsor is interested in are the facts relating to your experience and not your own opinions. The following is a sample section summarizing the whole shopping experience based on the purchase of a small inexpensive digital camera from a retail branch of a major chain of camera stores. This sample will give you an idea as how to structure your report and can be broken down into the relevant parts depending how your questionnaire has been put together.
    “I arrived at the store at 11.00am. There were 6 customers in the store, one of whom was being served at the counter. There were 3 salespersons behind the counter, 1 was serving the customer and the other 2 were having a conversation. Neither of the 2 who were not serving acknowledged me.
    There was shelving around 3 sides of the store with a large display of cameras behind a glass frontage along the longest wall. The cameras could be accessed by sliding 1 of several glass doors. All of the doors were closed and had locks although I was not able to check whether all of the doors were locked. I browsed the shelves for a while and after approximately 3 minutes I approached the counter where the 2 salespersons were continuing with their conversation.
    As I arrived at the counter they immediately stopped their conversation and a young man, in his early twenties, smiled pleasantly and asked how he could help me. He had a name badge with the name of Tim, in large letters which was easy to read. I could not see the name of the other employee as he turned and went into a room at the back of the store. He appeared older than Tim, I estimate early 30’s and was taller at about 6 foot. He had dark curly hair and wore glasses.
    I explained to Tim that I was looking for an inexpensive digital camera that I could take with me on holiday. Tim asked me if I had any model in mind and also what my budget was. I told him that I didn’t know much about digital cameras and that I didn’t want to spend more than $150. Tim was really helpful and went over to the glass cabinet, unlocked one of the sliding doors and picked out 3 cameras. He re-locked the cabinet and brought the cameras over to the counter. He then used one of the cameras, a Sony, and spent about 5 minutes explaining how digital cameras worked, the features of this particular model and the best way to get your photos printed. He also explained that most cameras come with a fairly basic memory card and that it would be a good idea to purchase an additional card with extra memory. He then went on to explain the key differences between the 3 models he had selected and the one which he would recommend, the Sony, which was on offer and was being heavily advertising in the store with posters on the wall and a display in the store window. The Sony was not the most expensive of the 3 but fell in the middle at $139.99. Tim seemed very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and answered my somewhat loaded basic questions without appearing bored.
    I told Tim that I would like to buy the camera at which point he asked if I would like to purchase an extended guarantee in addition to the one issued by the manufacturer. I asked him what the benefits were and he provided me with a leaflet which he then talked me through. I told him that I did not think the additional cost was worthwhile and he accepted this and did not try to persuade me any further. He then suggested that I should consider a camera case as the Sony did not come with one as part of the package. He showed me 2 cases that the camera would fit and when I chose the cheaper of the 2 at $9.99 he said that it would be perfectly adequate for my camera and did not attempt to push the higher priced case.
    I paid by credit card which was processed quickly. Tim placed the camera and case in a plastic bag, displaying the store logo and also gave me a voucher for free printing for 30 – 5″ x 7″ photographs. He had not mentioned the voucher earlier. He smiled, said he hoped I would enjoy using the camera and if I had any problems to get in touch. By the time I left, the other 2 sales assistants were both helping customers and there were no other customers in the store.”
    As you can see from the above explanation, “Secret Shopping” entails much more than just walking in an waiting for a greeting. As you can see, there is much more to “secret shopping’ than just walking in. Also results to each business are important. Cannot change if you are not aware.


    • 6 bnkhozam June 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Teri, thanks for your detailed description. It’s so lovely to hear from you. I hope you are well and enjoying Chippewa Falls. I hope to return in the near future. Barbara

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  1. 1 "I See You AND I Don’t Care": One of my favorite blog posts, by Barbara Khozam | Trackback on July 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm
  2. 2 My best customer service advice | Trackback on December 17, 2013 at 4:10 am
  3. 3 freedom mentor Trackback on February 27, 2015 at 9:50 am

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