Smile – there’s a customer here! by @ExecutiveVoice #IndieRetail

I am a great supporter of local, independent retailers, and where possible will show loyal custom to those businesses. I will go out of my way to shop at our local newsagent; buying more than just the papers. They always ask after my family: we have grieved a mutual friend together and we have shared local tradesmen’s names. I don’t however, support my local florist. In fact I have only used them on three occasions in the last 14 years – out of last minute desperation and then vowing never to set foot in there again. My father walks an additional 1 ½ mile round trip to collect his papers from ‘The lovely family that will always chat to me’. A brief (non-scientific) poll of my assistants confirms that they too avoid certain local shops and favour others…

How to stand out and be memorable in a way that really engenders customer loyalty

The challenge for independent retailers is that on the high street they are competing with known brands. There is so much choice and competition from well known companies, that they need to stand out and be memorable in other ways. Having a niche market is one; outstanding customer care is another. Outstanding customer care results in people recommending you, and to repeat business; what we all want for our businesses!

The reason why my father, my assistants and I avoid certain retailers is due, first and foremost to the quality (or lack of ) basic customer care and courtesy shown towards the customer. It costs nothing to acknowledge and smile at a customer, even if the customer does not purchase anything on this occasion – they might come back. But entering a shop where the shop assistants totally ignore you, then when you ask for assistance, have the manager say to her assistant “Tell the woman that they are out of stock” without looking up at you, is little less than abuse, and will not result in repeat business. It also results in me, the customer, telling everyone of my negative experience, so they are unlikely to buy from that retailer….

Top tips on how to improve rapport with your customers…

Outstanding customer care does not just mean smiling at the customer: although that helps, but engaging the customer so that they have a positive experience. Here are some tips to improve your rapport with your customer.

  • Smile at your customer when they enter your shop. Welcome them in!
  • Say ‘Hello!” even if they don’t reply, you have verbally welcomed them into your shop.
  • Ask ‘Can I help you?” It might be they just want to browse, but on the otherhand, there could be a specific reason why they have entered your shop.
  • Eye contact; you will develop rapport by looking at the customer and looking into their eyes.
  • Open body language; even if you feel stressed, be aware of your shoulders being down and your neck and jaw being relaxed. Also, unfold your arms so that your chest is ‘open’. These are all positive and send welcoming, non-verbal messages to your customer.
  • Make them feel comfortable; if you need to show them something, be aware of their needs; don’t invade their space or make them feel they are being followed, but either go back to your serving station or remain a discreet distance away.
  • If you are taking a telephone call when a customer enters your shop, acknowledge the customer with ‘I won’t be a moment’ and end the call quickly, if at all possible.
  • When addressing customers, focus on them if necessary breaking from what you are doing. You show you value your customer if you stop your stocktaking or invoicing!
  • Use your ‘conversation voice’ when speaking to Clients: a warm, friendly welcoming voice rather than an aggressive or disinterested voice.
  • Adopt a ‘can do’ or ‘solutions’ based attitude when dealing with customers. Being helpful is invaluable. Perhaps you don’t have something in stock, but could arrange for something to be ordered. Possibly it is something you don’t stock but you could recommend somewhere else to purchase something, or you could even make suggestions of a variety of products that could help the customer. However, blatant up selling of additional products gives the impression the shop assistant is on commission rather than being helpful!
  • Remember to train your staff to adopt the above points and lead by example!

Any potential customer entering your shop is an opportunity to develop a long term business relationship with, and to start recommending your business to others. Grab the chance by being welcoming, friendly and helpful: it costs nothing but encourages customers to buy from you – and come back. Good luck!

© Copyright Susan Heaton Wright 2011.

Susan Heaton Wright supports successful individuals to make an impact with their vocal and physical presence in the workplace. Susan’s website is


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
This entry was posted in Blog-a-day for Indie Retail, Customer commitment, Independent Retailer Month 2011, Service, The Retail Champion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Smile – there’s a customer here! by @ExecutiveVoice #IndieRetail

  1. Pingback: A preview of first 7 blogs for blog-a-day for #IndieRetail | Clare Rayner: The Retail Champion

  2. tomshay says:

    Great story; how true it is. It shows that sometimes a small business is a result of someone’s small thinking. The customer is the most important aspect of a business. Forget the customer and the customer will forget you.

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