It never ceases to amaze me how some businesses seemingly give no thought about that first customer interaction with them. I have phoned a number of companies recently as a customer and have been met with a reception that ranged from a chilly Antarctic wind to a sizzling baking hot tropical island party. Guess which companies I will be staying with? Right, those who made me feel welcome and that wanted to help.

Not rocket science

It really isn’t rocket science. A customer (or potential customer) is ringing you or walking into your premises and all you have to do is make them feel respected, wanted and important. How hard can it be? Well for some businesses it’s obviously way too hard.

Top 5 tips for your staff

Here’s the top 5 things you can adopt right away to ensure that your customers feel important and will stay with you or at least want to come back again:

1. Give them your full attention. Acknowledge them when they come in. Even if you are on the phone – let them know you will be with them shortly. If you have answered the phone to them, stop everything else – don’t eat, play games, talk to someone else, text, surf the internet or whatever. Focus and concentrate entirely on them.

2. Don’t sigh! This is a huge bugbear of mine. Take a breath before you answer the phone! I can’t stand it when someone sighs before ‘welcoming’ me to their business. I feel like an interruption.

3. Smile. This is not too much to ask. You’re going to engage with this person anyway – why not do yourself a favour and enjoy it! Smiling naturally makes people feel better.

4. Use ‘Can do’ language. Let the customer know what you CAN do for them. They don’t want to hear a list of what you can’t do. Use positive language. Some form of affirmation that you can help them. If you’re not the right person to help, don’t say “You’ve come through to the wrong department” How do they know? They have rung the number they’ve been given. And never talk down to a customer. They may not always be right but they are always the customer.

5. Listen to them. Don’t assume what they’re about to say next. Ask good questions and paraphrase to clarify what you’ve understood from them. Switch off the auto-pilot responses and concentrate on what it is they are saying. Some of them don’t know what they want so you may have to help but never assume.

First Impressions Department

So, if you have no idea who is running or directing your ‘First Impressions’ department (contact centre, reception etc), call up your own company and check the experience out as a mystery shopper. Get interested in this part of your business because it can stifle growth and turn people off if it’s done badly or it can help your business take off if it’s done well.

For more help, check out this one minute training video: