By: Laurie Brown

Here is a question for all of you. As a customer, how many of you have had a bad customer service experience? Hmmmm. Looks like it’s all of you. So think about it, if all of you have had a bad experience, it means that most likely all of your customers have had one too.

If your customers have had a bad experience, then consciously or unconsciously, they are affected by it. Have you ever noticed that some customers come in with an attitude – a chip on their shoulder or an emotional wall up? In these situations, when your customers are on the offense, like so many other service providers, you end up feeling defensive.

But, it isn’t necessarily about you. It is based on another experience with another person they have dealt with. So what can you do to remove the chip and break down the wall?

Greet your customers warmly and sincerely. A truly warm welcome can be totally disarming. Imagine walking into a restaurant and being greeted as a friend or member of the family- someone who was grateful to have you walk in to their place. No matter how good the meal was, you would still be happy you went there. The experience would have been positive enough that you would gladly give them another try.

Even though greeting your customer sounds so basic, aren’t you amazed at how often people fail to do this properly, leaving you feeling ignored and poorly treated? Remember you only have about five seconds to create an impression – make sure it is a good one! A good greeting not only starts things off on the right foot, it can also build a strong foundation for the future.

So, what are the elements of a good greeting?

1. Do an attitude check. Before you start your workday, do a personal inventory. How you are feeling? Are you tense? Are you rested? Did you just have a frustrating drive in to work? Did you have an argument with someone?

Be aware of how you are feeling and what you are thinking, and leave any negative emotions at the door. You’ll find it is too hard to automatically treat others well when you are battling with your own problems.

2. Immediate customer recognition. Don’t wait even a couple of minutes to acknowledge your guest’s presence. If you are in proximity of your customer, say hello. If you are with another customer you can still acknowledge them.

Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for someone to notice you. A simple nod of the head, eye contact or a brief comment will let the person waiting know that you have seen them and will soon be with them. Whether you are the janitor or the CEO, say hello to the customer as soon as you can. No matter what your position – you’re in the customer service business.

3. Make the greeting warm and sincere. Customers have sincerity radar. They can tell if you are “faking it.” One of the best ways to ensure that your greeting is warm and sincere is by expressing your gratitude. If you are not truly grateful that this person chose your establishment, you need to remember where your paycheck is REALLY coming from. The more that you can feel appreciative that this person has decided to do business with you, the better you will treat them.

4. Handshakes are optional. It is usually standard practice to make sure that EVERYONE gets a handshake, but the fact is, there are many cultures that find a handshake offensive. With the world getting more culturally diverse, the best tip is to wait with your hands at your side until the customer makes the first move and then respond by doing what they do, whether it’s a handshake, a hug or a bow.

5. Avoid asking, “How may I help you?” In a sales situation, this question allows the customer to say, “just looking,” at which point you are already at a disadvantage. It’s better to start off with, “How are you?” or a compliment on something they are wearing, such as, “great glasses, where did you get them?” or even a comment on the weather. Conversations like these can often help you start building rapport. But if your customer doesn’t like small talk get to the point quickly.

6. Understand your customer. Begin your relationship with the true goal of finding out their wants and needs and then try to make sure that you fulfill them. Working with this goal foremost in your mind will help define every action you take.

No matter what your business, your customer has needs that are spoken and unspoken. This means that you need to listen carefully. Listen with your ears, eyes, heart and mind. Listen to the words they are saying, observe their body language, listen to their tone to understand the emotional content, and be aware of what is not being said. Effective listening will help you deeply understand your customer. If your goal is to meet and exceed their needs, you can create a loyal customer who will tell their friends and family about you and your business.

Following these six steps will help you start building greater rapport and trust with your customers. The sooner you build rapport and trust, the sooner you can remove that chip from their shoulder or start tearing down their wall and create a “customer for life.”

About the Author:
Laurie Brown is an international speaker, trainer and consultant who ideas help people improve their sales, service and presentation skills. She is the author of The Teleprompter Manual, for Executives, Politicians, Broadcasters and Speakers. Laurie can be contacted through, or 1-877.999.3433, or at

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