How do you make sure every customer's visit turns into the Almighty Customer Experience, the kind that creates a great lasting impression?

You start things off right! Here are the top 5 ways to set the stage with your customers at your establishment, right from the get-go!

And it doesn't matter what industry...the top 5 are the top 5!

Here's what your customers are looking for in those critical first moments:

1. A Proper Greeting

The first words a customer hears really do matter, so make them count! The most common greeting we seem to hear is, "Hi, how are ya?" While it's not the worst thing you can say, it's weak and ineffective. Why? Well, because it's social noise. Let's face it... most folks don't care how you are. And it's usually just returned with, "Fine, how are you?" Again, there's no substance, and therefore no basis to begin building rapport. Kick start that almighty customer experience with one of these:

• "Nice to see you!"

• "Glad you're here!"

• "Nice of you to stop in today!"

The list goes on. Anything but the dull, overused, "Hi, how are you?"

2. A Few Good Manners

Please. Thank you. You're welcome. Come on...your mother taught you these! But sadly, they're underused, replaced by casual, sloppy language and just plain bad manners.

• "No problem" is NOT "You're welcome"

• "Here ya go" is NOT "Thank you"

• Any instruction you give that doesn't begin or end with "please" is an order ("Pull forward to the next window.")

Please. Thank you. You're welcome. These are words that every customer needs to hear.

Add them into your conversations, phone calls, emails...wherever and whenever you're working with a customer.

Darn it, I shouldn't have to tell you this! It would be nice to hear a "Thank you for holding," when you come back after putting a caller on hold, too.

3. Turn Your Ears On

Your customers must believe they're being heard, and that means you need to listen! When a customer has to repeat themselves, they get frustrated. Why? Because they feel you're not listening.

So even if you need pen and paper to jot notes as they talk, be sure you've listened and heard what they have to say. Then ask questions. Building rapport begins with good listening skills. Your customers need to be heard.

4. Show What You Know (Job Knowledge)

Customers want to deal with people who know what they're doing, and that's why the phrase, "I don't know" must be banished from your vocabulary. As most of our Telephone Doctor clients know, "I don't know" is a forbidden phrase. It's not allowed. At Telephone Doctor, it's a condition of employment, grounds for termination. That's right, you will never hear, "I don't know" from a Telephone Doctor employee. You might hear, "Gee, that's a great question! Let me find out for you." Don't derail yourself with that one forbidden phrase! Show your customers that you're knowledgeable and competent.

5. Smile

Right, smile! You knew that, didn't you? And smiling means we want to see those pearly whites! (Otherwise, you're just grinning, and that makes you look goofy.) Here's the coolest thing about a smile...it's contagious! Once you start one, your customers catch it. Your co-workers catch it, and maybe even your grumpy ol' boss catches it! Pretty soon, you have a full-on smile epidemic, and the world is a better place!

The list of things that go into creating that Almighty Customer Experience goes on, but I promise you, these Top 5 Kick Starters will set you on the right path!

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Nancy Friedman is a frequent speaker at association, corporate and franchise meetings. The author of 8 books on her service expertise, she has appeared on Fox News, CNN, Today Show, and Oprah, as well as many other shows. She has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today along with many major dailies. President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, she can be reached at 314-291-1012 or www.nancyfriedman.com.

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