This guest article is brought to you by Judson Laipply, who is Keynoting the 2018 Customer Service Revolution.
Growing up, my family owned a T-shirt, screen-printing, and sporting goods shop in the small town of Bucyrus, OH. Bucyrus is also the home of the Bratwurst Festival, a large three-day festival that brought a host of out of town people with money to spend and a desire to take a little piece of Bratwurst Festival lore home with them. So, in the style of all smart small business owners, my mother, who ran the store, put up a stand in front of the store on the main street to take advantage of the opportunity.
My father was a teacher and painted houses in the summer, but when the festival was in full force, he was out working the front of our store. Around the time I was 12 or so, I was drafted into the ranks of employment for 4-6 hours each day. (I imagine it was because I was willing to work for $2 an hour since that was a lot for a 12-year-old in 1988). There was one occurrence I observed that caused my 12-year-old self to roll his eyes over and over again, which I eventually realized was nothing short of brilliant customer service.
A good rule of retail is acknowledgment of a customer. Yet, we have all been in a store perusing the goods only to be asked, “Is there anything I can help you with?” to curtly reply, “No thanks – I’m just looking.” The resulting silence is often filled with a combination of disdain and annoyance as most of us just want to be left alone while we peruse.
My father, however, always replied immediately with a smile and said, “Well, go right ahead…looking’s free! We haven’t found a way to charge for that yet,” which almost always, at a minimum, returned a smile. Personally, I thought it was cheesy, cliché, and thus always resulted in an eye roll from my 12-year-old self. What I didn’t know at the time was it truly was a masterpiece in customer service.
*Related – Judson Laipply is Keynoting the 2018 Customer Service Revolution.
The brilliance of this line is that it busted the balloon of annoyance and acknowledged that it’s perfectly fine to look but you are our customer and we want to be of service. If you need any help at all, we are here. It was delivered with a simile and sincerity that showed the customer that we truly cared but also understood that they might just want to look. It was a combo of empathy and eagerness that almost always won the day.
So, next time you’re in a store checking out the latest fall offerings or seeing what’s on the sale rack and an employee asks, “Can I help you with anything” and you reply, “No thanks – I’m just looking,” imagine them replying: “Well, go right ahead…looking’s free!”