This is the time of year when the customers outnumber the staff. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because extra traffic means extra sales. Bad because you cannot give each customer the time they need to maximize those extra sales and you often lose a customer while you’re working with another customer.
Years ago I read a tip in a book for how to handle multiple customers at once. I hated the book and have long ago forgotten the title and author, but that one tip has remained with me.
Understand that just like multi-tasking where you actually do not do two things at once, you cannot (or should not) try to sell two people at once -unless they want the same product for the same reasons. So if you have two customers who need help, an easy way to handle that is to ask the first customer permission to greet the second customer.
“Excuse me, but would you mind if I go greet that other customer and let them know that I will help them after we are done here?”
Your first customer will agree, which accomplishes two things. First, they have given you permission to talk to the other customer. Second, they have given implicit acknowledgment that they will stay until you return.
When you get to the second customer, say…
“Hello, thanks for coming in. My name is Phil. I am working with another customer at the moment. As soon as I am done, I will be right over to help you. Is that okay?”
That last question is the kicker. When customer #2 says yes, they have now given you explicit permission to go finish up with customer #1 and also acknowledged that they will stay until you are back. Sometimes, however, they will say no because they have a simple request that only takes a second or they are in a big rush. If that is the case and you believe you should serve them ahead of the first customer, simply ask their permission to go back to customer #1 to explain.
When you ask your customer’s permission, you get them to commit to getting your assistance. Everyone gets helped and everyone leaves the store happy. Win-Win.
PS Tips like these are easy. Setting up a culture where shareworthy customer service happens every day all the time takes a little bit more work. The payoffs for that work, however, will show up in big ways on your bottom line. Want to learn how to set up the right culture and the right systems for delighting customers enough that they brag about it to others? Come to Austin, Texas in late January.