Current Issue

Six simple, helpful retail customer service tips

Comments Email
Many years ago we started out working mostly with folks who serviced customers by phone but, fast forwarding...any way you communicate with a customer is likely ripe for improvement.

This time, I'm addressing this column to retail folks. Please don't turn your hearing aids off on these tips just quite yet. As you'll see, many can be used for all touch points with customers. And sadly, all of these tips are from something that happened to me personally in the past few weeks. I don't make these up—I save them up.

Please, no gum—I walked into a retail store to buy a TV. There were three salespeople waiting to help me. Two were chomping open mouth on their gum. One was not. Guess which one I asked to help me?

Right, the one who didn't look like a cow having dinner. Hey, I'm not alone. Most people don't want a salesperson chewing gum open mouthed while they are helped. (If you're worried about bad breath, mints are just fine.)

Maintain eye contact—In yet another store a while back, the head of the lady who helped me seemed to be on a spindle. She looked around everywhere but at me. That's a no-no. If you're not making eye contact with the customer, it appears as though you're not interested. You don't need to stare into their eyes all the time—that would be weird. However, maintaining some sort of eye contact with them every so often is a very good idea and will help the potential sale along.

Don't point, go show—Whole Foods Market does it right. No matter whom you ask about a product, that person will walk with you to find it. And on the way they will make some sort of rapport-building conversation. It could be about the item you're looking for or it might be about the great weather we're having. Thank you, Whole Foods. You “get it.”

“Can I help you?” is mediocre—When someone comes into your retail establishment, rather than asking him/her, “Can I help you?”—to which 80-percent of the time the answer is, “No thanks, I'm just looking”—be proactive. Try something like: “We're glad you're here. My name is Nancy. Please ask for me when you're ready, and if that's now, let me know.”

You must use something that says, “We're not average, we're special.”

Compliment the customer's purchase—If you're with the customer at the close of the purchase, it's nice to say something positive about what he or she has bought. Doesn't matter if it's a new hammer, a new dress or a brake job. There's always something we can say that will make customers feel as though they made the right purchase.

If you have a “fact” about the product that helps and can cement the purchase even further, share it.

Don't deny your customer the choice—Whether you're in a large retail chain or a small boutique type store, not offering or suggesting what can help the customer is a big mistake.

If someone has chosen an item and you know of something else that would complement it or be helpful to the purchase, it's your duty to mention it. Trust me: This is not being pushy. This is simply being helpful.

You, in all probability, know the stock and product pretty well. If someone purchases a Widget and you know that there's a Widget organizer, it's the right thing to mention it to the customer as you're closing out the purchase. Try it. It's a great feeling when the customer says, “Yeah, I'd like that. Thanks!”

This list could go on and on, of course. However, if you can master most of these six points, you'll see a remarkable difference in how customers react to you and to your establishment.

Nancy Friedman's Op-Ed columns appear periodically in Tire Business. She is president of Telephone Doctor Inc., an international customer service training company based in St. Louis. She can be reached via email at
More Polls>

TB Reader Poll

Previous | Published February 22, 2019

What kind of investments do you plan to make this year?

Adding more employees.
21% (17 votes)
Upgrading software/hardware.
16% (13 votes)
Upgrading our equipment and/or facilities.
37% (30 votes)
Training for employees.
27% (22 votes)
Total votes: 82
More Polls »