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April 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 4


Retailing Tips: How to Interact With Customers

Kind Greetings, Pointed Questions and a Solid Plan Equal Successful Communication

“We wait for them to get past that 6’ dead zone at the entrance, then we come out from behind the counter and greet them.” Terry Myers, Kaleidoscope Toys
There is nothing wrong with letting customers browse your store and spend time looking, touching, and playing with the merchandise. But make sure that every customer who walks in is greeted and engaged in some kind of interaction. Though there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, more than 50 retailers shared with TDmonthly Magazine what they believe are the most effective ways to make customers feel comfortable in their store.

1. Ensure Every Customer is Greeted Properly. Welcome people to the store, but make sure to give them a little space. Being jumped on is almost as much a turnoff as being ignored.

“We wait for them to get past that 6’ dead zone at the entrance, then we come out from behind the counter and greet them with a ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon,’” noted Terry Myers, owner of Kaleidoscope Toys in Round Rock, Texas.

2. Make Greeting a Priority. When you tell an employee to stock a shelf, they might think that’s the most important, and only, task they need to focus on. Let your employees know that such tasks can and need to be stopped when a customer walks in.

3. Provide a Script. Don’t tell your employees, “Just say hi!” Give guidance on what to say next. After asking how they can help, “if the customer still responds that he/she is ‘just looking,’ we ask if they have been in to see us before,” Ray Goodhart, president of Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., told TDmonthly. “Yes” customers are then introduced to new products, and “no” customers are taken on a tour of the store.

“Never start with, ‘Can I help you?’ advised Joe Berardoni Sr. of Pun’s Toy Shop in Bryn Mawr, Pa. “After a ‘hello,’ start a quick conversation and then ask a question that cannot be answered with a no, such as, ‘How can I help you?’ or ‘What can we do for you today?’ This conversation starts things on a positive and softer note.”

4. Smile! Whatever else might be going on, you and your employees need to smile when people walk in the door. Smiling and frowning are both contagious. Which do you want to spread?

5. Ask Questions. Don’t assume that because you caught the customer looking at product X, that’s why they came in the store. “We ask them who they are buying for, how old, if they are a boy or girl, and what their interests are. We ask what price point they are looking for,” Candace Williams, owner of The Toy Maven in Dallas, Texas, told TDmonthly.

6. Don’t Forget About Customers.
How irritating is it to be told, “Let me know if you have any questions,” and then not be able to find that salesperson again?

7. Make Sure Staff are Recognizable. Since my store was small, I didn’t think I could afford any kind of uniform for employees. After a retail consultant pointed out to me that it was difficult for customers walking in to identify who the employees were, I began requiring my staff to wear aprons (from and took the cost out of their paychecks.

8. Let Them Play! “We just let people come in and play. The store is very kid friendly so it's like ladies’ day in here a lot of times. We just visit while the kids play,” said Anna Barr, owner of Anna’s Toy Depot in Austin, Texas.

Not every customer is going to buy from you when they walk into your store. However, it is still important that every interaction be positive so that customers 1) remember you 2) come back and 3) tell their friends.

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Adeena MignognaWriter's Bio: Adeena Mignogna is an entrepreneur and writer who specializes in writing about small business, particularly retail. She started her own retail business in 2002 and operated it for more than five years. Now, she helps others through ups and downs in their business ventures. Adeena is the author of "Cute Little Store: Between the entrepreneurial dream and business reality" and the soon-to-be-released "Cute Little Store 2: What ever happened to that cute little store?" Read more articles by this author

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