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OWENS: Millennial shoppers want smiles, too

If you look around at the guests who are coming to Savannah, you may notice they’re changing.

Studies have found that more Millennials are traveling than ever before. In fact, there are more Millennials who travel than there are Baby Boomers who travel.

So, in tourism, we’re always asking, what are the needs of the Millennial explorer? And, there’s a lot to unpack with what the Millennial traveler expects from a destination.

But, one of the more surprising finds was what Millennials are looking for in a retail experience.

They want the smile.

In customer service, we think about two versions of the smile.

The first smile is the basics of customer service. If you work with people, no matter if it’s in tourism or in another field, the interaction should include a smile.

A recent Forbes article, “4 Reasons Why Excellent Customer Service Should Start With A Smile,” expounds on the theme that “excellent customer service almost always starts with a smile.”

The writers call the smile the invitation to come in and do business with you, to spend money with you and to become repeat and loyal customers.

In customer service trainings that I do, I ask participants to do a smile inventory. Are you smiling when you greet someone? Are you smiling when you talk on the phone? How does your smile look?

It’s important to take stock of your own smile and the smile of your staff on a regular basis. The concept that good customer service always starts with a smile is so basic, that it is far too often overlooked.

The second smile, we don’t often talk about in customer service, but it is more important for Millennials than any other generation before them.

This is getting the customer to smile.

A couple of years ago, Brodeur Partners, a communication firm that does research conducted a report called, “Retail Relevance: GenY vs. Boomers.”

They found that a retailer’s ability to make that person smile was one-third more important to the Millennial than to the Baby Boomer.

So, where previous generations approached a shopping experience looking for the best deal, this up and coming large generation wants to smile before they buy.

What are you doing to get the customer to smile? And more importantly, how do you know if you’re getting a genuine smile?

Studies have shown that those who are more emotionally intelligent are better at determining a fake smile over a real smile, but there are some tips you can use to find an authentic smile.

Researchers say look at the the eyes. If the person has a real smile, there will be wrinkles around the eyes. The ocular muscles are not as easily controlled as the mouth muscles, so a real smile includes the eyes.

One of the easiest ways I have found to get a customer to smile is to thank the customer for their business. If you can, use their name, it’s even better. As the great Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound.” Remember, you don’t have to wait until a customer has completed his or her transaction to thank them for their business. You can always thank them for coming into your shop to take a look around.

If that doesn’t work, look for ways to wow them. If you can exceed their expectation, they’re more likely to respond with a smile and with loyalty to your business.

This goes beyond just you. If you are a manager, watch for the interaction between your employees and the customer. If you do not see both of these smiles, get some training for the employees. You’ll hopefully see dividends aplenty.

At the Tourism Leadership Council, we’ll be exploring the Millennial traveler even further at the Aug. 18 TLC Connection Luncheon featuring president of Visit Savannah, Joe Marinelli. He will talk about how his award-winning organization attracts the Millennial to Savannah. You can find more details about the luncheon and register at www.TourismLeadershipCouncil.com/events.

 

Michael Owens is president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, the largest non-profit trade organization that supports and represents the tourism community. Contact Owens at michael@tourismleadershipcouncil.com or by calling 912-232-1223.

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