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Just say no to insincere greetings.

Bad_Greeter Psychologists tell us that the best remembered and most influential parts of a shopping visit are the very first and last experiences. (it has to do with the theta oscillations and the coordination of spike timing of neurons, for you neuromarketing geeks).

That’s exactly why companies like Walmart employ “greeters” to welcome you to their store.  But too many retailers delegate the role of store greeter to an employee without retaining the spirit and the results are tragic.

Walmart greeters primary role to “greet” customers, any other duties they are assigned are secondary.  Walmart overtly hires friendly, elderly employees for the role, who evoke a shoppers memories of their grandparents.  They just seem sincere.  Clearly Walmart didn’t invent store greeters (they first introduced them in 1983), but for a chain of more than 4,000 stores and 300,000 employees they do it remarkably well.  Here’s a Walmart greeter with over 3,000 fan on their facebook page.

Unfortunately, too many retailers identify an employee who has some other primary purpose and assign greeting duties as a secondary function.  These employees are usually hired for their suitability for their primary function (inventory or loss prevention, for example) and frequently lack the disposition to be a greeter.  Too often these employees will shout “hello” to a new customer without ever making eye contact, simply to check “greet customer” off of their mental check list.  As a shopper entering the store, the insincere greeting from some unseen corner of the store is very off-putting.

Worst of all, many retailers assign this secondary function to an employee who happens to already be stationed at the front of the store… the loss prevention specialist!  When the Security Guard greets you at the door, he may say “Welcome to the store”, but what we hear is “I’m watching you!”.  If the two most memorable events in the shopping trip are going to be the first and the last, do you really want the first one to be accusing your customer of being a thief?

The bottom line is, having a store greeter is a great idea if your willing to make it a primary role, and hire the right people.   Otherwise you’re probably better off to just skip the greeting, and design some other feature of your store to be a great first impression.

What’s been your best or worst experience with a store greeter?

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