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July 2013 | Vol. XII - No. 7
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Greeting A Customer: Should A Smile Be Required?

How employees should greet customers is a frequent topic among retailers.

Today, RetailWire discussed What is the Significance of a Smile? The topic was based on a report from the UK, The Lost Art of Loyalty, which found:

  • 59% said a smile and a friendly hello was the most common reason why consumers feel loyal towards small and independent retailers.
That’s good.

  • But only 54% of small and medium-size businesses stated their business employed this practice.
That’s bad.

Or is it?
Sales managers can tell you one thing has remained constant for generations: a friendly salesperson sells more than an unfriendly salesperson.

A lot more.

Hiring “friendly people” is great advice. Except that what you consider friendly and what your employees may feel is friendly can be worlds apart.

When you add into the mix their feelings about having to sell? You may be expecting your employees to dig a ditch when all they are coming to work with is a knife. They are ill-equipped to do the job at hand.

So, you might decide to require employees to smile at every customer. You might put it in your handbook. You might post signs at the register to SMILE.

So now they are to dig the ditch with only a knife — and smile while they are doing it.

Nothing destroys chemistry in a store quicker than phoniness.

Let’s back up a minute…
You have to start with why smiling is important — it should be an outward expression of an employee’s willingness to serve.

While you can discern some of that during your hiring, ultimately if you are concentrating on the appearance of friendliness over the intangibles of being friendly, it just won’t work.

From the luxury shopper to the dollar store shopper – everyone can spot a phony right away.

Yes, you can foster friendliness among your retail sales crew by introducing your best customers to your new hires, and you can go out of your way to introduce them to each other, but ultimately you have to be willing to pay to train the employee on the process of building rapport.

You wouldn’t expect an employee to:

Cut hair without scissors...
Make a dress without a sewing machine, or
Deliver a refrigerator without a truck

You would supply the tools your employees needed but didn’t have.

In short, you need to be willing to supply the shovel before you expect the ditch.

So many retailers are struggling right now trying to increase conversion rates, attract customers and sell their best merchandise. Yet the competitive advantage of retail sales training continues to be lost on all but a handful of companies.

Should a smile be required when your employees greet your customers? No.

Once they receive retail sales training and more tools to create an exceptional experience, they’ll do that naturally.

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Bob PhibbsWriter's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author

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