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4 Key Conversations to Help Your Customer Feel Welcome

One of the perks of Kathy Cuff’s job is that she gets to travel to many fabulous places in her home country of the USA and abroad. Kathy Cuff is a customer service expert and coauthor, together with Ken Blanchard and Vicki Halsey of the book, Legendary Service: The Key is to Care. In her travels, she has experienced all types of customer service. On a recent business trip to Iowa, Kathy was told by the woman at the hotel front desk that the pizza at a restaurant across the street was good and the rest of the food was okay.  Seeing that her only real options were a fast food place or the pizza place, she walked to the pizza place for a bite to eat—hoping it would be better than she made it sound.

Over her many years of eating out while traveling, Kathy had learned food is only part of the experience. If the food is only fair, the right atmosphere can make up for it. This place missed on both counts. The pizza was just okay and this restaurant completely failed at what ultimately could have made Kathy’s visit into a good experience.  It is a very simple thing that many businesses fail to do every day.

They failed to make you feel welcome.

Picture this. Kathy walked in and nobody greeted her, smiled at her, or even looked at her.  Kathy stood by the front door for a few minutes, and then moved toward a table in the bar area.  A waitress passed by her without acknowledging her. A minute or so later she came up to Kathy and, as she stood there, asked if she wanted something to drink.  When Kathy requested a menu, she handed her one without a smile and walked away.

After reviewing the menu, Kathy decided she might as well stay, so she sat down at a table.  About five minutes later the same server came over to her to take her order, still without a smile.  This was my her entire dining experience.  Even when Kathy paid my bill, she never smiled or thanked her for her business.

Kathy knows that some people have a hard time making small talk.  However, especially when you are in a job where you are interacting with the public, it is imperative that you learn how to converse with strangers to make them feel welcome, want to stay, and want to come back. Think of it as having a series of conversations. We have conversations all day long with our colleagues, friends and family—and the same can be true with total strangers.

Here are 4 key conversations to have with customers to make them feel welcome and want to come back:

  1. Greet them and welcome them to your business.  This can be as simple as saying “Hello and welcome to our restaurant” or “Thanks for coming in—you must be from out of town.”
  2. Identify their needs.  In this case, the server could have asked if Kathy was looking for dinner or just something to drink.  She could have offered suggestions of an appetizer, a special drink, or something on the menu.
  3. Be responsive to their needs.  She could have stopped by Kathy’s table as she was eating to check on how she liked her meal and to ask her if she needed anything else.
  4. Follow up.  Once she brought Kathy’s bill to her, she could have asked how long she was in town or invited her back for their special the next night. She could have tried to make the restaurant feel like her home away from home!

But none of this happened.  Kathy left feeling as if she had intruded on their nightly routine.  She received no “Thank you for coming” or “Have a nice night”—just a few stares from the patrons in the restaurant.

Don’t let any customer leave your business with these thoughts and feelings.  A simple conversation can make the difference between keeping a customer or losing a customer.

About the author:

Kathy Cuff is a customer service expert and coauthor, together with Ken Blanchard and Vicki Halsey of the book, Legendary Service: The Key is to Care.
First published on Blanchard LeaderChat
11 August 2016