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Insights
The dumbest customer service question ever!
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  • 25 Aug 2013

One of the most common things I hear is walking into a retail store is the age-old question “Can I help you?”

Why so dumb?

Most people have developed an almost pre-programmed response to that. “No thanks, I’m just looking”, or something similar, often comes out of a customer’s mouth automatically. Even if we do want some help, without thinking we tell the retail assistant to leave us alone.

What’s even worse is that retail salespeople that have heard those automatic responses a few times come to expect it, and the dumb question then comes across like they’re going through the motions (making it even worse!).

So what’s the alternative? Here’s a 3 step approach to engage with the customer and get them talking:

  1. Give a friendly and genuine greeting as they enter (“Hi. How’s your day going?”).
  2. Watch them browse for a while to get a feel of what they might be looking for and, more importantly, when they might be ready to chat (maybe 30 seconds to 2 minutes). Judgement is needed here – you must watch for the signals.
  3. Approach and ask them something relevant to what they’re looking at (“What do you think of that style?” / “How do you think that might look in your house?”).

Sounds simple and it is. But I can guarantee it will create better rapport and open up a conversation far better than asking a question that automatically triggers them to tell you to bugger off!