The culture of retailing varies from society to society. In Italy and Indonesia, for example, the customer is more important than the product, while in the UK and Australia, the product is often perceived as more important than the customer. But whatever the culture, it's vital that your staff greet customers properly. Recruiting team members is the first key step and it's best to choose people with personality and who enjoy working with customers. But that's not always easy. Too often, managers lack the finer skills of interviewing, while interviewees can often disguise their true personality. A useful interviewing technique is to pass compliments to the interviewee and then gauge their reaction. A confident, people' person will graciously accept the compliment without embarrassment and would probably make a useful addition to your team. In any retail business, it's imperative to have a minimum meet and greet' standard in place. Your staff should, as a matter of course, welcome any customer entering the premise with a friendly greeting and a warm smile. Make sure your staff are familiar with the following essentials: l Make eye contact with the customer ­ people read eyes first. One retailer asks team members the colour of the customer's eyes who they have just served. This proves an effective way of making sure they make eye contact. l Remember to smile ­ and this should come naturally. A smile shows a friendly face, but it also changes your voice and presents the customer with a friendly tone. l Give a sincere welcome. We can all name global franchise organisations which train people in a set greeting which often comes across insincerely. Allow your team members to use any one they feel comfortable with that comes across sincerely. The greeting is important, it can be a Hi, Hello, Good Morning, or whatever. The key is that it is sincere. l If you know the customer's name, use it. We all enjoy our name being used. If your team knows the names of regular customers then they should be encouraged to use them. Plus, if they can relate back to a recent project, holiday or other event in the customer's life they will form a great bond with them. This will move the relationship from a customer/salesperson to a friend/friend and then the loyalty relationship with your business will increase dramatically. l Keep the body language positive. Remember, people read bodies over language. When greeting customers you must always be positive. l Focus on the customer not the merchandise. If you're building an intricate display or carrying out a detailed job, it is best to stop for a second, greet the customer, and then carry on with the task in-hand. To carry on working may give the message to the customer that you don't care. It may be a busy trading period and you are faced with a number of customers at one time, all of whom need your attention. In this case, all you need do is glance at the customer and make eye contact. The eyes alone can say, "hello, I will be with you in a moment". I know one retailer who loses customers because his team is too friendly. He monitors customer service on a regular time frame and usually finds that 99% of shoppers think it's the best place to shop ­ while 1% say they'll never come back because the sales team is so friendly that they find it overbearing. You'll never please everybody. However, there are some measures you can use to gauge whether your team is customer friendly. Ask yourself: have you a service strategy clearly defined in terms of the benefits to your customer? Have you a service strategy clearly communicated both outside and inside your store? Are your systems and procedures always directed towards the customer? Do you have measurable quality standards for all the service areas? Are they communicated to all the members of your team? Are you recruiting, training and promotion-oriented towards service to the customer? Did you reward somebody for something really special that he/she did for a customer in the past 12 months? Is your team involved in setting up service quality standards? Surveys of customers show that they want to be greeted promptly and properly and within the first three minutes of entering a store. In the US, 80% of them think they already are - would it be anywhere near that in the UK? l This is an abridged article taken from John Stanley's book Just About Everything a Retail Manager Needs to Know n {{FEATURES }}