Growing up in a family business I learned the first level of customer service early. Sitting on a stool – being too small to see over the counter – with a pen and paper, the first words I uttered to the customer was “How may I help you?”. I didn’t realize the importance of those five words.That simple phrase is not just a salutation, but it is also the first step to developing a personal relationship with a customer. At that moment the business becomes a living, breathing entity, because representatives bring your business to life. They are not only saying, “Can I take your order?” or “What do you need?” They are really asking the customer three very important questions: How may I help you love my product; how may I help you believe in our product, and how may I help you become a loyal customer?
How may I help you love my product? Every business owner has fallen in love with the product they are selling, and they want the customer to love it, too. They have spent countless hours perfecting their merchandise and believe that if you incorporate it into your life, you will love it also. The only problem is they know more about it than the consumer. This is where marketing comes in. Businesses spend thousands of dollars trying to convince the public to fall in love with what they are selling. When customers meet the representative through any form of media, they, too, are given the chance to convince someone to fall in love. A car salesman will let a potential buyer test drive a vehicle in hopes that they will fall in love with its intricate details. That initial encounter gives the company another chance to help you love the product in way you never thought was possible.
How may I help you believe in our product?The representative is given an opportunity to enhance a customer’s awareness about what the company has to offer. It is a great opportunity to sell and up-sell your company’s mission. This can be done by giving samples, upgrades, or discounts. In the restaurant business, it gives us a chance to offer samples of food they may not have tried with the assurance that if they are not satisfied then we could change things for them. It’s a great time for the company to clear up any misunderstanding, misrepresentations about their product.
How may I help you become a loyal customer? This is crucial to the longevity of any company. It is just as important to maintain existing customers as it is to gain new ones. Most customers will remain faithful if they feel that you are loyal to them. If they feel that you are genuinely grateful for their business and care about their experiences with your company, they will stick around. As stated earlier, the phrase“How may I help you?” is the first step to establishing a personal relationship with your customer-a relationship that is based on loyalty and faithfulness on both parts.
At the age of 8, I didn’t understand the impact of greeting customers could have on our family restaurant,and neither did my parents,otherwise they would not have given it to a kid. However, it’s ironic that the first job they taught me was how to greet the customer,the first step to building a successful business. “How may I help you?” establishes a very important relationship between the company and their customer because that first encounter and every one thereafter can determine if you have won over another faithful buyer or have given them away to your competitor. By focusing on what is implied by those five words and the power behind them, hopefully we realize that it is not an insignificant greeting at all, but instead a very powerful message that has an opportunity to transform your customer’s entire experience.
Yvette Jones Hawkins has over 30 years of experience in the Restaurant & Hospitality industry. She's worked at the executive level in the private and corporate sectors.
Yvette's experience began in her family’s chain of restaurants, Everett & Jones BBQ, which has been successfully operating for over forty years in Oakland, Ca. and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Currently, Yvette is continuing her college education and writing her first novel.