Bakers Journal

Five greetings that boost walk-in sales

August 9, 2012
By Jeff Mowatt

Aug. 9, 2012 – Quick, what's the typical greeting used most often by 60 per cent of retail
stores? You're right if you guessed, "Can I help you?"

Aug. 9, 2012 – Quick, what's the typical greeting used most often by 60 per cent of retail
stores? You're right if you guessed, "Can I help you?" The visitor's
usual response? "No thanks, just looking." The problem is the walk-in
customer is never "just looking." They came into the premises because
at some level they perceived a need. This greeting only reminds
visitors that they're not here to buy. 

The way you and your front-line employees greet walk-in customers
has a huge impact on your bottom line. Here are some tips to ensure
that you and your employees greet customers in a way that makes them
want to buy and keep coming back.

1.  Show that you recognize them.

If you deal with customers, the two most important words are not,
please or thank you, but are your customer's first and last names. Take
the restaurant I patronized in Greece, for example. As I walk in with
my friends, he shouts, "Jeff, you're back! Welcome!" He smiles at the
rest of my party and says, "I see you've brought your friends,
excellent! We'll clear one of our best tables for you!" At this point I
don't care what the food tastes like – this guy gets my business.


If you don't remember the customer's name, you need to at least let
them know that you recognize them and are happy to see them. So an
effective greeting would be, "Well, hello! It's nice to see you again." Customers return to secure, friendly environments. Show that you
recognize them, and they'll want to come back.

2.  Ask if they've been in before.

One of the best money making greetings is, "Hi, have you been here
before?" Michael Gerber, author of the best seller, The E-myth, says
that his clients who have switch from, "Can I help you?" to this
greeting have seen sales increase by 16 per cent. While Gerber claims to have
no idea why this works so well, I think it's because this greeting
reminds the customer that they've been at your business before, so it's a
familiar place. Familiar means safe. Safe means trust. And trust
means buy.

With this greeting, the employee can also add, "Welcome back, we
appreciate your coming to see us again." That provides that
all-important recognition.  They can ask the customer about what they
bought on their last visit and how they like it.  That provides the
opportunity to provide positive reinforcement and/or clear up any

If this is the visitor's first visit, then the employee has a great
excuse to show them around, identify needs and point out specials. At
any rate, if saying, "Hi, have you been here before?" can increase sales
by 16 per cent, then it's certainly worth a test.

3.  Ask about the weather.

I realize the weather is an often-used topic, but it's disarming,
and gets the customer talking about something where they can be the
expert. The critical step that's often missed is you need to respond to
the customer's comments. That shows that you're listening – not just
techniquing them. Once you've addressed their comments, you can then
transition from the weather to identifying their needs.  Example: "Well,
at least you're in from out of the wind now. What brings you in aside
from the cold weather?"

4.  Compliment appropriately.

Be careful with this one. If you do it wrong, you be construed as
being a phony and will lose the most important thing you need to sell – trust. So don't offer a general complement such as, "Don't you look
good today." Instead, make sure your compliment is relevant and

5.  Use a conversation piece.

Interesting artwork, a talking parrot, or anything you place near
your entrance that draws comment is great. It gets the customer
talking, questioning and interested.

Timing is everything.

More important that what you say, is the fact that the visitor is
acknowledged – not necessarily served – the moment they enter. One
study revealed that 68 per cent of customers who leave do so because they feel
like no one cares that they're there. Picture entering an establishment
waiting to be served.  Then use your watch to count off 30 seconds.
You realize that even half a minute is too long to wait.

One of my seminar participants, a bakery owner, ensured a fast
greeting if the employees were working in the back room by installing a
doorbell that rings as the visitor enters. They call out, "Hi there,
I'll be right out!" and they keep the business. Simple and smart.

The Six Worst Greetings

  1. A stare – like employees are watching to see if you're going to steal something.
  2. The daze – they pretend they're so busy they can't see you.
  3. (As you enter a restaurant) "Just one?"
  4. "Can I help you"
  5. "Next!"
  6. A canned, phony sounding speech.

Customer service strategist and professional speaker, Jeff Mowatt is an authority on The Art of Client Service .  .  .  Influence with Ease. For Jeff's other tips, self-study resources, and training services, visit

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