Four Key Conversations to Help Your Customers Feel Welcome

One of the perks of my job is that I get to travel to many fabulous places in this country and abroad. In my travels, I have experienced all types of customer service.  On a recent business trip to Iowa, I 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 my only real options were a fast food place or the pizza place, I walked to the pizza place for a bite to eat—hoping it would be better than she made it sound.

Over my many years of eating out while traveling, I have 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 my visit into a good experience.  It is a very simple thing that many businesses fail to do every day.

They failed to make me feel welcome.

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

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

I know 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 I 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 my table as I was eating to check on how I liked my meal and to ask me if I needed anything else.
  4. Follow up.  Once she brought my check to me, she could have asked how long I was in town or invited me back for their special the next night. She could have tried to make the restaurant feel like my home away from home!

But none of this happened.  I left feeling as if I had intruded on their nightly routine.  I 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 CuffKathy 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.

4 thoughts on “Four Key Conversations to Help Your Customers Feel Welcome

  1. Here’s my take on that kind of lousy experience. We never know what those people who don’t smile, don’t seem to care, are dealing with in their lives, what they are feeling, thinking and worrying about. In addition they are often unhappy in their job and cannot rise above all of that to provide great customer service. So, my practice is to overcome them with kindness, a smile of my own and express some kind of hope that they might have a better day. And quietly, I say a little prayer for them and their situation, their families etc. Sometimes I even ask a question like how long have you worked here, or are your from around here? Or do they know a place where I can get something? My objective, shift gears and change the conversation or at least try to enrich it by some small degree. Not always successful but worth the effort.

  2. What? No Iowa friendly!? The entire staff must have been from New York City! Come and see us at Hidden Acres… you will have a new insight about Iowa! And your advice was spot on!

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