Acknowledge the Customer: Set the Tone with Your Greeting

In my Daily Dose video series, I explore the topics that chief customer officers must grapple with on a daily basis. Join me as I discuss what I’ve learned over the course of my 35-year career, so that you can more effectively do the work that needs to be done.

Today’s video is an excerpt from my online course, inspired by my book, Would You Do That To Your Mother? Click here to learn more about the course and enroll. 

The following is a lightly edited transcript of the video below.

How we’re greeted as customers tells us a lot about the treatment we’re about to receive. Whether it’s placing a call to a company, checking into a hotel, walking into a retailer, visiting the doctor—that first moment of contact cements it. And as you’re standing there, or on the line waiting, or waiting for that tweet to come through, you get that little catch in your throat waiting to be acknowledged.

Beth, for example, feels fortunate, because under her employer healthcare plan, she can go to an urgent care clinic in town along with her family members, for no additional copay. As a teacher on limited income, this puts her mind at ease. But every time she checks in at the front desk, filling out forms is the front desk person’s priority. When the employees at the front desk say hello, their heads are tilted toward that computer screen.

Be Sure to Recognize and Welcome Customers

What Beth really wants is what we all want: to be a priority. She wants those employees to acknowledge her with respect and ask her how she’s doing, and how they can help her. What we all yearn for is to be recognized and welcomed, and to have our priorities understood and acted upon.

How you answer the phone and greet customers gives them important clues about what the rest of their experience with you will be like. And it’s all too easy to slip into an ultra-efficient routine that inadvertently focuses on internal processes rather than the human right in front of you, or right over the line, or the tweet, or the chat box.

Would you invite your mom to an event at your home, then give her a number and ask her to take a seat? Of course not. You’d welcome her in, ask her how she was doing, and make her comfortable. You’d make sure she knew you acknowledged her importance. So honor the human right in front of you. “Make-mom-proud” companies act on people’s desires to be welcomed and acknowledged.

Hyatt Hotels, who we mentioned earlier, focused their human-centered redesign on the moment of recognition we all yearn for in a hotel check-in experience. CEO Mark Hoplamazian, for example, said that this work began when he personally observed Hyatt’s check-in experience from the perspective of a human customer rather than from the hotel chain’s perspective.

As a result, Hyatt spent two years developing a system that redirects the front desk clerk’s initial focus with a customer from keying in the reservation to a greeting and a welcome. And this redesign has led to an increased focus on who they hire, and how they engage people at that front counter. Now, empathy and human connection, rather than the sound of those clicking keys, are the focus, the goal, and the hallmarks of a Hyatt Hotel welcome.

Rethink Your “Hello”

The great opportunity here is to rethink and redesign your “hello” with a welcome, with eye contact when possible, and by calling customers by their name. And of course, this all sounds intuitive. We should warmly and personally naturally greet our customers. But the truth of the matter is that frequently, this is the exception rather than the rule.

Humanity trumps paperwork! The great opportunity here is to rethink and redesign your 'hello' with a welcome, with eye contact when possible, and by calling customers by their name. Click To Tweet

ContactPoint Client Research has found that on average, employees ask or welcome customers by name only 21% of the time.

Small Gestures Make Real Impact

Be the company that always honors the person first. Before you do anything else, acknowledge the customer, the human, reaching out to you. Care genuinely. Know or ask for or acknowledge his or her name. This small gesture paves the way for real relationships that go beyond transactions.

They set the “make-mom-proud” companies apart, and these interactions, these gestures, don’t cost a thing. Humanity trumps paperwork.

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