-by Sally Whitesell for Dealer Service Magazine.

Never underestimate the importance of a professional greeting!

Nothing sets the tone for an exceptional service experience more than a warm welcome. I’m not just referring to your client’s experience, but also your advisor’s experience with each individual.

When we start off by making clients feel like a welcome guest, they will be more open and receptive throughout the entire interaction. So why don’t advisors make this important step a priority? After watching hundreds of advisors on drives, I have a pretty good idea.

Advisors often forget to slow down and focus on their clients’ needs.

They get too caught up in multitasking; focusing on the cars, the never-ending paperwork and warranty approvals. They simply forget to stop, look, and listen when they approach a guest. This is why I consistently hear “Have you been helped yet?” or “Do you have an appointment?” Both of these greetings (if you can call them that) will make a client feel like they are a just another task that needs to be accomplished rather than a welcome guest that we are happy to see!

Advisors sometimes ask me if clients care about a warm welcome anymore. These advisors are under the impression that the client just wants to get in and out fast, so the advisor will skip the niceties and focus on efficiency.

When they do this, advisors are following the rushed clients’ lead instead of taking charge of the process and making it productive for both parties. A positive first impression is a vital start to building a relationship with a potential long-term client. The saying is true; you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

According to a national report from JoinWomenDrivers.com, Over 40% of female clients were dissatisfied with their initial greeting and rate their first point of contact as unfavorable.

This is eye-opening research because women make up over 65% of your service clientele. Our golden rule is: if you can meet the expectations of your female clients, you will exceed the expectations of everyone else. This is why a simple professional greeting is crucial.

In our advisor training, we share the importance of the “first few seconds.” The importance of making your clients feel welcome cannot be understated. It is the first chance for personalization, which is the basis of a long-term relationship. A warm welcome is not just saying the right words, but also delivering them in an upbeat voice with a little pep in your step. A genuine smile and good eye contact is just as important. This type of body language will show a sincere interest in having them as a customer. If your team does not look like they’re happy to be working in your store, your clients won’t be happy to be there either.

So what does a warm yet professional greeting look like? We always like to start every interaction with the word “Welcome”. It seems so simple yet it can make such an impact. Why do you think it’s on every doormat?

The actual definition of the word as a verb describes its importance.

wel·come  /ˈwelkəm/  verb
  1. greet (someone arriving) in a glad, polite, or friendly way.

There is a sandwich shop by my home that requires every employee to yell out a welcome when you enter. At first it felt like it was overkill to hear this word yelled out over half a dozen times, yet I found my husband and I started smiling when we heard this rhythmic greeting. Imagine if we went in again and it didn’t happen. It would feel like something negative had happened to the employees or as if we had arrived at the wrong place. Let’s make sure your clients know they have arrived at the right place by using the following:

“Welcome to XYZ Motors. My name is Sally and you are? Well thank you for coming in today Mr./Ms. ______! Are we expecting you this morning?”

This simple word track will help your greeters and advisors make every client feel they are valued as an individual. Not only are advisors welcoming guests into your business, they are also personally connecting by giving their name and getting the guest’s name. The line “Are we expecting you?” is a great way to find out if they have an appointment without using the word appointment (which we consider a bad word on our drives).

Consider making this a standard greeting at your dealerships. We usually have a little fun with it the first few mornings by playing competitive games. The person who uses it the most wins! I can guarantee that after your advisors spend one day using this professional yet simple greeting, they will see a positive change in their complete interaction with the majority of your guests. With that said, welcome to the first step in training your professionals!

Sally Whitesell is President of sw Service Solutions, which offers in-store training nationwide and Fixed Ops University; engaging online training for managers and service advisors. Sally brings over 21 years of on-the-drive experience to her training, seminars and books, which include her highly sought after “What Drives Women?” program and her book, “Words That Sell Service.” And new for 2019: the ultimate sales tool: the sw Service Solutions Maximizing Menu.

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Comment by Tom Loyalty Coach Wiegand on February 3, 2019 at 5:10pm

We become what we experience. When we work within a pressure-cooker time-intense environment, it radiates within the customer experience.  Faking it never changes it. The best techs used to get a third of the labor rate, today one-eight! The business squeezes out every dollar, scratch their heads and wonder what happened. When margins remain more important then employee experience, customer experience remains mediocre at best.

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