Greeting customers is an essential job-related social skill. Students should learn appropriate ways to greet customers and practice this job-related social skill in a variety of settings and situations, preferably those in which the student might work or volunteer.
The Zits comic strip (written by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman) chronicles the life of a teenager named Jeremy. In one sequence of events, Jeremy gets his first job at a grocery store where he stocks products, answers customers’ questions, and generally helps out. In one strip, Jeremy is shown greeting customers. “Hey” he says to a lady; “Sup?” he says to a man; and “Dude” he says to a senior citizen—all of whom respond with puzzled looks. In the last panel, Jeremy’s manager suggests that he work on his greeting skills, to which Jeremy replies that he will “dial back the chat.”
As humorous as this comic strip is, it raises important issues about job-related social skills. First, it shows that we cannot assume that everyone has a particular social skill, no matter how basic. Second, it illustrates that people may believe they are being socially appropriate, when in fact, they are not. In Jeremy’s case, his greetings might be suitable for his peers, but they are not appropriate in a professional employment setting with customers from a variety of age groups.
Greeting Customers in Person
Extending a greeting in person can be complex depending on the situation. It can be a simple declaration: “Welcome to Store Name.” Or, it can engage the customer in a conversation: “Hello, my name is ____. What can I help you find today?” In a conversation, the employee usually is expected to introduce himself or herself and offer/provide assistance, e.g., answer questions, give directions, etc. Moreover, if the customer has a complaint, the employee will need to respond to the complaint, which is a complex social skill.
To set up the lesson, first define the skill as you want the student to demonstrate it. If you know that a student works at a business that has a scripted greeting, embed it into the steps. For a basic in-person greeting, the steps might be:
- Stop what you are doing.
- Smile and look at the customer.
- State the greeting. Typical welcome messages are “Welcome to Store Name,” or “Welcome. Let us know if we can help you,” and so on.
- (Optional) If the customer says, “Thank you,” respond with “You’re welcome,” and/or perhaps, “Have a nice day.”
Additional skills can be built onto this basic greeting. For example, the social skill would be expanded if the customer replied to the greeting with a specific issue:
- Greet the customer (assumes basic greeting skill).
- Listen to customer and determine what he or she is asking.
- If you know the answer, tell the customer the answer. If you do not know the answer, tell the customer that and state what you will do to get the customer an answer (e.g., check with your supervisor, direct the customer to the help desk, etc.).
- Ask, “Did I answer your question? Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Greeting customers should be practiced across different job situations. For example, some jobs are solely as greeters, like those at store entries or office reception areas. A role that includes greeting skills in addition to other responsibilities might be as a worker in a specific store department.
In all cases, greetings should be delivered naturally. Help students understand that greetings are a first impression; they are intended to put customers at ease and make them feel welcome. Greetings should be delivered with a positive affect and not appear forced or fake. Instructors also may want to discuss the types of questions not to ask when greeting a customer. For example, “How are you today?” generally is not recommended as it assumes familiarity and interrupts the customer who is there for a purpose other than to chat with a stranger.
Greeting Customers on the Telephone
Extending a greeting over the telephone requires a slightly different set of skills. Usually, the business has a specific script to use when answering a call such as, “Hello, you have reached Company Name. My name is ___. How may I help you?”
Part of the greeting involves listening to the person, taking messages if necessary, offering to help, and in some cases, asking questions to find out what the caller needs. Each of these social skills can be taught.
Students should practice delivering an upbeat and happy greeting over the phone (e.g., simply smiling while extending a greeting can come across the telephone in a positive way). Similarly, because the employee cannot see the caller’s face, he or she needs to practice listening to verbal cues that may indicate frustration, confusion, being in a hurry, and other feelings that a customer may be experiencing that can have an impact on the exchange. For example, if the caller responds negatively to the greeting, the employee might be taught to transfer the call immediately to a supervisor rather than ask questions and probe for additional information.
Learn More About Teaching Job-Related Social Skills
Greeting customers and other social skills are found in Exceptional Innovations’ Job-Related Social Skills: A Curriculum (3rd Edition). Lessons are designed to develop the basic, foundational job-related social skills required across most employment areas. Instructors can use Job-Related Social Skills: A Curriculum to provide participants with these basics so that they have a leg up in getting and keeping a job. Learn more.