Words Matter

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Rick Segel Group

I just had dinner with my daughter at Chik Fila, one of her favorites. And as always, when I said thank you to the server, he replied "my pleasure." It is part of the CFA training for employees to respond with my pleasure. "It shows a sincerity in our service," the server told me when I asked why. And as I thought about it, I agreed, it did make me feel like he was more sincere. 

In retail, words matter.

The way we phrase a benefit statement or the way we say thank you or you're welcome can convey sincerity or habit. Let me explain. When I ask my five year old daughter "how was school?" she always says "good." When you see a friend on the street and say "how's it going?" they usually respond with a one word response - "fine." Neither of these sound sincere. 

In my book, The Retail Sales Bible, I talk about the importance of greeting the customer. The fact is, it should feel more like a welcome than a greeting. We greet strangers. We welcome friends. So certainly part of what matters is the way in which we use our words. But, we underestimate the power of words. 

Did you know that it is estimated that with over 200,000 words in the English language most people use less than a few hundred of them? And most of those are I, me and mine. Use a "big" word that no one knows or understands and you convey arrogance or make the person you are speaking to feel like you are talking down to them.

Consider your product knowledge. How many times do you use the big feature terms when selling? Does your customer truly know what they mean?

As I research retail sales floors, I hear a lot of acronyms in use by the retail salespeople. Acronyms they know, but the customer doesn't. It's the same impact as using the big words; you still make the customer feel stupid.

Your role is to make them feel confident. After all, one of the top three fears a customer has in your retail store is fear of looking stupid. No one, including myself, likes to be seen as stupid - or at least been seen as "not in the know." How many times have you acted like you knew what your friends were talking about versus telling them you had no clue?

Choose your words carefully. For example, many millennials have the habit of saying "no problem" when you say thank you to them. Which sounds better to you as a customer? No problem or my pleasure? Which sounds like you are sincere or genuine? Which sounds like you went out of your way to do them a favor (thus making them feel bad for putting you out)?

Another example is I'm sorry. True it's always good to tell people you are sorry, but what they really need to hear is what you are sorry about. Customers prefer to hear "why" you're sorry. Have you ever called a company service's phone line and heard the person say, "I'm sorry. You are a very valuable customer to us?" And after hearing these words thought am I? Am I really? You can tell he is reading a script and not speaking from the heart. 

In another article, The Problem is not the Problem, we deal with the principle that we tend to solve the problem of the product or delivery and ignore the problem of the broken trust or hurt feelings of the customer.

Always remember, selling is service and service is selling. Your job is to choose your words carefully, speak them with empathy and sincerity and connect with the person standing in front of you or on the phone and not a "number." Treat the customer like a person and not a transaction.