- September 24, 2019
- Posted by: Phillip Van Hooser
- Category: Customer Relationships, customer service
Why is acknowledging customers so important? The first few seconds of any business encounter set the stage for the business relationship to follow. Use these three fundamental sentences when acknowledging customers to build more purposeful business encounters.
L.L.Bean’s Commitment to Acknowledging Customers
A few years ago, my wife and I decided to visit the anchor store for L.L.Bean in Freeport, Maine. As I moved through the aisles, I found myself in a back corner of the building. There I noticed something stenciled on the wall for all — customers and employees alike — to see. The sign read:
At L.L.Bean a Customer Is…
- The most important person to us, whether in person, by phone or by mail.
- Not dependent on us, but us on them.
- Not an interruption of our work, but our purpose for doing it.
- Human like us, with feelings, emotions and biases.
- Not someone to argue or match wits with.
It just makes common sense that if our customers — the people we are “dependent on,” and the “purpose for our work,” — are the “most important person to us,” acknowledging them should be our immediate reaction when they walk into our stores, call our offices or email a request.
But sometimes we hesitate to make the first move. Maybe we’re preoccupied with an operational task or we are unsure what to say. Nevertheless, hesitating even slightly can make us appear aloof, pretentious or unapproachable to the customer.
#1 Move to the customer and at least make eye contact as soon as possible.
The sooner you approach your customer, the less time you allow them to formulate mental obstacles, objections or negative impressions of you and your business. If you are temporarily unable to move to the customer, (on the phone, with someone else, etc) at least make eye contact to acknowledge the customer and let them know you recognize their presence.
In Willie’s Way, I wrote about how the cab driver, Willie Watson, did this even before I made the decision to get into his cab. He made eye contact with me and he said,
“Hey buddy, need a ride?”
This was something every cab driver in the queue could have done. But their hesitation cost them a fare.
#2 Introduce yourself to unfamiliar customers immediately.
Willie knew the window of opportunity was limited. If I made it to the back seat of his cab without that initial positive connection being made, there was a real possibility that I would soon be engaged in my phone, checking my email or maybe even catching a nap. And that would mean the opportunity for a personal business connection would be lost, possibly forever.
Here’s how Willie immediately acknowledged me, the customer, when I climbed into his cab.
“My name is William Watson. My friends call me Willie. I’d appreciate it if you’d call me Willie, too.”
At this point in the business relationship, I had the choice to respond to Willie’s greeting or ignore it. Not wanting to be rude and pleasantly intrigued by Willie’s approach, I replied,
“My name is Phillip. My friends call me Phil. I’d appreciate it if you’d call me Phil, too!”
With just a couple easy sentences, the customer and the service provider are now on a first name basis!
#3 Once you know the customer’s name, repeat it as often as possible during your conversation.
Immediately, Willie extended his hand and said,
“It’s nice to meet you, Phil!”
And he continued using my name throughout our conversation.
With just three short (probably well rehearsed) statements, Willie broke down the barrier between potential customer and service provider. He effortlessly acknowledged me, the customer, called me by name and then invited me into a special group he calls “friends.”
Acknowledging Customers Isn’t Earth Shattering
You may be thinking, “these fundamentals for acknowledging customers aren’t earth shattering.” And you’re right, but how often do we habitually practice some of the most fundamental elements of great customer service?
Willie did several unique things to win my business! (all easy to do, inexpensive and effective!) For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of Willie’s Way here.
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