The unbearable lightness of greeting

Good day and welcome to the 22nd post of this blog!

I’ve been struck recently by really poor experiences visiting different venues lately.

Call centres have their own particular robotic greetings, insincere, but usually polite. I’d expect face to face meetings to be somewhat warmer, but that isn’t always the case.

Arriving at the bank this morning, I found I was next in the queue, two staff serving two customers, the rest of the building pretty empty. When the next cashier was free, she pressed her button advising cashier 3 was available, despite being 5 feet from me. I said hello cheerfully, with no response. Explained my reason for being there, which judging by her face flumoxed her, but not enough to talk to me. It was as if I had asked her to name the capital of Morroco she stared at her computer screen intently, although inactive. Eventually a supervisor came over, stood next to me and asked the cashier what the problem was. The supervisor studiously avoided talking to me too. Once they had agreed a course of action, the supervisor was helpful, but I had the distinct impression I was interupting her day.

Earlier in the week I visited a hotel on Brighton sea front with my wife, hoping for a coffee on their balcony. We wandered in and were greeted by… no one. Staff members rushed by to talk to one another, but not us. Eventually we left, two unsold coffees won’t be a great loss to the company’s bottom line, but we won’t go back there for personal or business use, and if it comes up, we’ll probably have a little moan to friends and family.

So what is it with these firms? Is it a lack of customer service training, low staff morale or just a basic disinterest?

Whatever the cause, it’s vital that companies get this first interaction right. Any customer could be the next “big client” and getting the first impression right is absolutely vital. For small shops it’s the difference between making a sale and never seeing the customer again. For big multinationals it’s the difference between a good reputation for customer service and a poor one.

There are dozens of different “statistics” for how long it takes to make a first impression, anything from 2 to 30 seconds, whatever the answer, the absence of simple friendly greeting is guaranteed to make it a bad one.


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