Foreword Online

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The Worst Questions to Ask Your Customers

Posted by Kate Seat on 8/28/15, 12:00 AM
Topics: college store customer service

You know what questions you should ask your customers, right? What about the ones you shouldn't ask? This list, from Retail Doctor Bob Phibbs, may surprise you.

Questions You Shouldn't Ask

1. How are you today?

Admit it, you don’t care; the shopper knows you don’t care. This leads to the customer having to parrot back the expected answer, “Fine and you?” To which the retail employee responds with another expected answer, “Fine,” or they launch into another unthinking question or go silent.

Why it’s wrong: You never want to make customers have to lie to you.

What to say instead: Good morning, feel free to look around and I’ll be right back.

2. Are you looking to buy today?

I know, shocking to read but that is still asked by people trying to sell you everything from a car, to eyeglasses, to you name it.

Why it’s wrong: Trying to decide between lookers and buyers based on their answers is ludicrous. Many times people go into a shop not intending to buy but they get so romanced by the environment, displays, and salespeople that they treat themselves anyway. And just as many intend to buy, but a pushy salesperson’s comments and attitude have made them leave without their intended purchase.

There is nothing to say instead.

3. Isn’t this weather-related noun (heat, snow, rain) awful?

Doesn’t matter if you are in the deep south during a brutal humid summer, the northeast during a windy spring, or the drought-struck southwest, you rarely – if ever – will get another person to agree with you. Then you just look foolish.

Why it’s wrong: If you get someone to agree, you’ve put yourself in misery’s company. You build rapport with someone by first finding out what positive things you have in common – not fishing for misery. And not about the weather.

What to say instead: Something positive about what they are wearing or holding.

4. Can I help you find something?

The mark of a truly untrained salesperson. I know you’ve heard it hundreds of times when you’ve shopped, but that doesn’t make it right. Customers tell you I'm just looking to get away from such an aggressive question.

Why it’s wrong: Because it starts from the idea that customers all know specifically what they want, that they all are trying to fix something. But that’s not the case. Most trips to a store are not like a trip to a hardware store where, “Can I help you find something?” leads to, “Yes, I’m looking for #2 screws.” Most trips are based on a customer trying to solve a larger problem.

What to say instead: If you are indeed a hardware store, What’s your project today? If you are a furniture store, What room gets the makeover today? If you are an electronics store, How can we connect your world today? You get the idea...

What alternatives would you recommend to other college stores?

About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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