Employee “Welcomers” are Key to Good Customer Service and Repeat Business

Companies know through research and personal experience that good customer service is the secret to retaining and attracting new customers. Yet many companies don’t do it well, as Richard Shapiro, a client retention expert, says in his new book The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business.

"good customer service"

Richard Shapiro

They haven’t identified those employees — whom he calls “welcomers” — who are especially adept at engaging with customers so they buy over and over again.

Welcomers are essential to bricks-and-mortar retailers and to providing online customer service where it can be more difficult to provide that personal touch.

Secrets to Repeat Business

Shapiro shares his own experience as a teenager in his father’s haberdashery store. His father had the gift of being interested in customers as people.  As Shapiro says in his book, “What I learned then  is…customers are people first and customers second.” The Welcomer Edge describes how to make first time customers into repeat customers.

Shapiro describes four different types of employees:

Welcomers are associates who draw new customers to a business and keep them. Welcomers can create a relationship that lasts a lifetime.
Robots are staff who just go through the motions in their customer interactions and do not understand the need to make a personal connection.
Indifferent employees overtly communicate that they really do not care whether you are a customer or not. They almost never say “hello” and certainly do not say “thank you” and may even walk away just when you need assistance.
Hostiles are people who do not want to be at their jobs and make it abundantly obvious.

He points out that a welcomer is not the official company greeter that many retailers station near the door. Rather, a welcomer is the person who handles your actual transaction whether you visit, call, or email an inquiry to an organization.

Shapiro writes, “Welcomers are a special class of service and sales associates that innately make customers feel important, appreciated and valued. Welcomers establish an emotional connection with your customers. They make customers want to do business with your business again.”

Valuing Good Customer Service

In his book, Shapiro gives many examples of both good and bad customer service, such as the pottery shop owner who didn’t even look up when Shapiro entered his store.

Or Fay, the front desk employee at a Dallas hotel who always smiled and recognized him even with long gaps between visits. He even began to refer to the hotel as “Fay’s Hotel” because she was so friendly. He had no inclination to stay at another hotel.

Call centers are particularly notorious for their slipshod service (who hasn’t been enraged by those long menu options). Shapiro gives examples of how call center operators can be a company’s most important welcomers by simply asking how they can help and saying they’re happy you called.

Online customer service

"training employees"

Shapiro reminds you that a computer is a robot but a customer is not. When customers purchase products online for the first time from a new company, they don’t know who is behind that electronic curtain. Making a customer feel welcomed, important and appreciated is equally important, if not more so, when the transaction is electronic.

He skewers companies who send emails commanding that you DON’T REPLY TO THIS EMAIL without offering a way to contact the company, like the time he tried to cancel a subscription service.

I’ve written about my own experiences as a customer with Bloomingdale’s, Home Depot and Samsung — the good, the bad and the ugly. I didn’t know it at the time, but the employee who was so caring in the gift department at Bloomingdale’s was a welcomer.

Now I’ll know when I walk into a store or shopping online whether I should stay or leave. And it won’t take me much time to decide now that I know to look for the welcomers.

Do you have any horror stories — or stories about good customer service — that you’d like to share? And if customer service is your business, you might want to pick up a copy of Richard Shapiro’s book.

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Comments

  1. This is really good. So obvious and basic, but so hard to do. I especially like the point about companies that send emails saying “Do Not Respond” without giving you a way to do so. Frank

    • Thanks, Frank. It is so basic, so why don’t more companies improve their customer service? I recently bought a new cordless phone set and it didn’t come with the user’s guide. I looked online but the product wasn’t on the company’s site. I found the customer help number on the base of the phone and called. After have a conversation with a “robot” I was told to visit the company’s website and the robot hung up!

  2. Really interesting aritlce and so true. A welcomer is worth a fortune for a company. Too bad far to many people belong in the other categories. In a way the worst are the “robots” that stick to company proceedures no matter what.

    • Catarina — Robots will never replace the personal touch of a real human being. Companies may be saving money by using robots instead of people but they risk losing customers.

  3. Seems you misunderstood me, Jeannette. An abundance of people behave like robots for the simple reasons that they neither care about the company they work for nor the customer and love the power they have over customers.

    • I agree, Catarina. It’s awful to be on the receiving end of a churlish customer service rep’s comments, or to be left waiting for service while two sales people have a private conversation. They just don’t care.

  4. This post really hit home. I’ve always been accutely aware of the humanistic side… or lack of it in customer service. And as you point out emotion is what it comes down to. Incorporating people skills to make customers FEEL or feel good is the key. I just visited the pediatrician with my son who was ill. The first person to greet usis the receptionist. Her skills as a welcomer was so warm and empathetic that it immediately put my at ease. On the flip side, you point out that some companies leave “do not reply to this email” and remove all human contact. I’ve also noticed websites where a phone number is so hard to find that it seems like they don’t want to interact personally… only through the computer. I get very turned off by this.

    The question is… can anyone be a welcomer? I believe that the skills can be taught to employees but perhaps what is more important is that a company not allow the skills to slip. Oversight and consistency are key!

  5. All of us have run into “Hostiles,” i.e. employees who hate their jobs and make it abundantly clear to their customers. What I don’t understand is why any employer would put up with “hostiles” in this difficult economy, when there are so many people who need and really want jobs.

    I was raised by in an entrepreneurial family. We were taught that the customer always comes first.I can remember nights in which we sat around for 30 to 45 minutes because a customer would come in one minute before the store closed and would start trying things on. My father never, ever turned off the lights, or announced that the store was closed or allowed any employee to infer that anything was amiss. He would send the employees home quietly and my mother and he would simply wait quietly for the customer to finish. The customer ALWAYS came first. His attitude was, “The customer is not an interruption in our business — the customer is the purpose of it.”

    Kay in Honolulu, Hawaii

    • Thanks, Kay. I know I would have liked your parents. They understood how to value their customers. I guess I can never understand why a salesperson needs to be so indifferent, or even nasty, to customers. Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to be happy and enjoy your job rather than be miserable all day?

  6. Kay, thanks for commenting on Jeannette’s review of my new book. You are so right about what you said about how customers should be treated. As Jeannette said in her reply back to your comment, I would have appreciated knowing your parents too. I’m sure they were both welcomers!