Is an Insincere Smile Better than a Sincere Frown?

I walk into one local store about two or three times a month.    Every time I walk in, a “company-shirted” clerk at the counter mumbles, “hullo” in a dull monotone without ever looking in my direction.  Every time it happens I bristle because of the obvious show of insincerity.  I cringe in expectation as I approach the door yet, because of the convenience I continue to shop there.  If they had a nearby competitor I’d drop them in a second.

Obviously, someone at headquarters decreed, “every customer will be greeted upon entering!”  Just as obviously, nobody trained the front-line troops to understand the reasons why a warm greeting can be good for business and what a warm greeting looks and sounds like.  Can’t you just imagine the clerks plotting to figure how to obey the “the greeting decree” while doing it in the most offensive manner possible?  It sure looks the “customer elimination department” has been hard at work there.

As a refreshing contrast, I frequent another establishment where I am always welcomed with a smile and a warm, “hi there!”  Yes, I know the greeting is company imposed but, because of the way it is delivered, my impression is that the company wants me to know my business is valued and if I need assistance or have a question, I will be waited upon with courtesy.  Someone in management has figured out that customers would prefer to be waited on by a person who acts as if they enjoyed satisfying customers.

I hope no one sends me an email grousing about “the attitude of young people today” or “you can’t get good help today.”  Clerks at both businesses are about the same age so it’s not “young people.”  

The finger of blame points squarely at management – top-level management creates the culture and the way customers should be treated.  Mid-level management implements and supports the culture.  The blame for terrible customer is due to either or both groups of management.

It comes down to expectation, execution and education.  The customer-warmth tactic comes from top management, it is taught by mid-level management.  I’ve heard people being trained say, “If I don’t feel good, I don’t want to be a phony and act like I do.”  The answer is that “even if you are in a grumpy mood, pretend you are happy to see a customer because an insincere smile is better than a sincere frown.”

Is your place filled with sincere grumps?  “Have a nice day!”

Question or comment to Larry:  larry@larrygaller.com