Have you ever arrived at a restaurant or other reception area to have people walk past you several times and you begin to wonder if you are “invisible”?
It takes a split second to acknowledge someone’s arrival and give a friendly “be with you as soon as I can” to reassure the customer that they have been noticed and to give them this initial respectful greeting.
The training carried out by The Conflict Training Company takes me to a variety of settings and I have noticed that the worst places for this type of behaviour are reception areas where customers are often already on the defensive. Places such as health benefit assessment centres, council offices, housing association reception desks, etc. Customers may arrive with their hackles raised feeling the need to justify themselves, or fully expecting an unfavourable outcome. I was recently greeted (eventually) by someone who did not even make eye contact with me and merely said “letter please.” When I responded with a polite “good morning” the person then acknowledged me and became perfectly pleasant. The receptionist’s attitude changed further when I explained my role and the reason for my visit. It was initially an unnecessary form of greeting for any customer.
In other places, such as a restaurant, it may change the mood from arriving with pleasant expectations in mind to be replaced by feeling somewhat affronted.
The quickest comment may change the mood of the customer from one of fear or defensiveness to one of comfort and security. It may encourage your restaurant customer to wait if necessary, rather than move off to another option. Even if you were not able to fit them in at that time it would leave a favourable impression and they will be more likely to return next time.
For a customer at a service where they are already feeling undermined or at a disadvantage ignoring them on arrival could lead to unnecessary hostility before they have even met with the assessor, housing official or whoever will be conducting the meeting. This sets up a confrontational atmosphere before the meeting has started. A positive and pleasant welcome may help to put the defensive person at ease and enable the conversation to start at a more positive level.
It only takes a quick look, a moment’s break to say “I’ll be with you as soon as I can”, or “I’m sorry to keep you, I won’t be long” for a person to feel noticed. If there is a queue of people waiting, many or all of them will notice and feel assured they have been acknowledged.
Our conflict management training reinforces the idea that a customer needs to feel listened to and their opinions valued. A pleasant interaction can begin as soon as they walk through the door.