The Not-So-Friendly ‘Friendly’ Customer Service Greeting

 

Today I went through the Wendy’s drive-thru, like I do often when I’m hungry, lazy and in a hurry.  I have a not-so-secret love affair with their chicken sandwiches that my taste buds love and my arteries hate.  For the most part it’s an easy experience.  Quick, efficient and I always get what I ordered.  But in terms of customer service, it’s generally a little …. lacking.  Now, I don’t really expect much.  Let’s be honest, my interaction with them lasts a grand total of 30 seconds before I drive away, but there is one individual that works there who, as far as I can tell, has never said a word to a customer ever.  He tends to work window number two, where all he has to do is hand me my bag and drink.  Which he does in complete silence.  It happens so often that I’ve turned it into a game to see what I have to say to him to actually get him to speak back.  So far, I’m losing.  Big time.

So, you can imagine my surprise today when, as I pulled up to the window, the gentleman working there opened it up and said hello!   My order wasn’t ready yet, so he made small talk, starting with ol’ faithful “Hi!  How are you today?”  To which I replied, “I’m doing great!  How are you?”  You know, the usual.

And then he made the mistake that so many people in customer service make every day – he responded with “Well, it’s Friday, so I’ll be better once I get to go home.”  **facepalm**


Customer Service Greeting Gone Wrong

I would say that, as a customer, I get this answer from a sales person or customer service rep at least once a week.  And not necessarily from the same store or location. It’s a response used across the board in the customer service world and every time a hear it, it just makes me cringe.

In our customer service training programs we talk about “hidden messages”.  The message behind the words you say, that can have a significant impact on whether or not the interaction with your customer is a positive one or a negative one.  Often the hidden message is not intentional, but unfortunately is there nonetheless.  This response is one of those unintentional hidden messages.  What this nice guy at Wendy’s was probably thinking was, “I’ll be friendly, build rapport and talk to her like a friend.”  What I was thinking was, “Wow, thanks for telling me how much of an inconvenience I am!”  Not exactly the message a customer wants to hear.

To put it into perspective, let’s take it out of the customer service world for a minute and imagine that you’re at a dinner party. You’re sitting beside someone you’ve never met and you say, “Hi!  How are you?”  Then they say, “I’ll be better when this is done and I’m home in bed.”  Not really a positive first impression.  I would bet money that you would not be going out of your way to make a friend out of this person!

The same is true in customer service.  You want your customer to feel welcome and important, but there is a fine line between being friendly and making them uncomfortable.  When you’re at work, you’re on stage.  It doesn’t matter how tired you are or how bad a day you’re having, your customer should never see it.  When they walk in (or drive up!) to spend money with your company, they should be made to feel that you’re happy to be there and happy to be helping them.

Change Your Words, Change Your Message

So, the question, for those who most often use this response with their customers is, what should they be saying instead?  The short answer is – almost anything else as long as it’s positive!  But for those of you looking for more specifics, let’s look at how my interaction today should have gone:

Wendy’s guy:  “Hi!  How are you today?”

Me: “I’m doing great!  How are you?”

Wendy’s guy: “I’m outstanding!  It’s Friday and the rain has stopped, what more could I ask for!”

Notice what I did there?  I kept the intention behind the message the same (“Yay, it’s almost the weekend!”) but with a few different word choices I was able to put a more positive spin on it.  Phrasing it like this would have created something that we can bond over (The weekend!  No rain!) without making me feel like an inconvenient part of his day.  A customer would drive away from an interaction like that feeling appreciated and encouraged about returning to Wendy’s again in the future.

The moral of the story is – don’t ever underestimate the impact your words can have on your customer, and the outcome of an interaction.  It doesn’t take much to send the wrong message to your customer, so choose responses and phrases that have positive hidden messages instead of negative ones. Even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone a little bit.  And for the love of all that is holy, never ever ever tell your customer that things will be better when you’re not at work!

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