Do you still get nervous when talking to customers? If you’re looking for a few tips to help get over those tight-chested, shallow breath and heart attack feelings, there are a few ways you can show them you want to pursue a relationship.

You can always tell when a customer service representative really cares. It’s that twinkle in their eye, or the fact that they’re still nice to you even though they’ve had a long day. (No one likes a crabby employee.) These helpful people make customers feel welcome and visible. These are the people I approach when I’m looking for something in a store.

I had an experience like this recently. A young fellow who obviously worked at the store stopped and smiled at me as I browsed an aisle.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Nailed it. Those words made me feel valued as a customer, and I knew that I could ask for anything I needed without feeling foolish. All it takes to reassure a customer is offer a friendly smile, calm body language, and a prompt to speak. Do you want your customers to feel valued? It’s time to learn how to talk to customers in a way that will turn them into loyal, loving fans.

The Tips

Have you ever felt jittery when talking to someone new? If not, then you’re blessed with an extroverted personality (you lucky person, you). For those of us who have a hard time spitting out small talk, we could use a little help. Sometimes it feels like your lips are just flapping around like loose rubber. It’s embarrassing.

There’s a way to fix this. There’s a way to learn how to strike up a conversation without sounding silly or stilted. I’ve compiled a list of 9 tips that will help you talk to customers like you mean it. Let me know which ones are the most helpful in the comments below!

1. Eye contact.

“Even if you are the world’s best listener, the customer won’t believe it if you are staring at the floor1.” I have a few friends that talk to me this way. I know they care, but it really makes a difference if you’re engaged with your conversation. If you’re shy about meeting someone’s eyes, just think of it as an act until you get more comfortable. Practice makes perfect, after all. You are what you pretend to be. Create that connection with your customer!

2. Put yourself in their shoes1.

This is the best way to get personal with the question, and to find the right answers quickly. Ask everything you can to clarify and find out how to help out – this shows that you care, and that you’re considering a real solution. It also proves that you aren’t just passing their concerns off as complaints.

3. Keep calm and carry on.

Talking to customers who have complaints and bad attitudes can really put a damper on your mood. Even if it’s an intense fight to find the solution, keep your cool. This shows that you’re the “bigger kid” at the same time as diffusing any potentially explosive conversations. “This helps the customer remain calm1” while proving that you have a trustworthy, steady attitude.

4. Know your store.

The more knowledge you have about the store, the less tongue-tied you’ll be when talking to customers. A few key things to know a lot about include sales, clearances, and product locations. Customers really like to know where to look, and they’ll come to the first salesperson they see with their questions.

5. Be honest, even if it hurts.

“Always tell the truth, especially when you do not have an answer1.” This is excellent advice, and it is rarely used. If your store doesn’t have a solution to the customer’s problem, don’t push the truth and tell everyone that you’re working on it or that you might be able to fix it. There’s a special kind of respect that’s born from honesty. Trust is built off of nothing but the absolute truth.

6. Greet a customer as a friend.

Even if you don’t know them, treat a customer like they’re a friend. That way, you’re always pushing to be friendly and help them out. “Using a customer’s name frequently throughout the conversation makes [him] feel important and builds trust2.” Introduce yourself, ask for their name, and smile. Always smile. Rarely does anyone complain about a store treating them too kindly.

7. Be interested.

Even if you aren’t particularly interested in someone’s day, act like you are until you feel it. Or, if you never do, at least you can say you looked the part. Introduce yourself and ask for their name. Be sure to use it once or twice during your talk3. It will make him or her feel more comfortable and cared for.

8. Be like them.

Not completely, of course. “People tend to like [those] who are similar to themselves2” and will react in a more friendly fashion as long as it doesn’t look like you’re playing copycat. Do you have siblings? That mimicking can get annoying real fast. Good examples of proper mirroring include speaking slower if a customer does2, smiling back when they do, and crossing your arms as they do2.

Hopefully it’s a given, but never EVER copy bad behavior. That’s just dumping gas onto the stove! Bad idea.

9. Be positive!

“A positive demeanor wins over a customer and leaves [them] with a good impression of your service or products.3” The more you smile and treat someone with a good attitude, the more eager they are to be around your customer service. Make a decision to leave all of your problems from home outside when you walk in to work. Nobody likes a grumpy complainer, but just about everyone likes talking to a positive helper.

Talk like a Pro

Don’t worry about feeling like you can’t spit out a proper sentence around customers. Practice makes perfect – practice talking to everyone who comes into your store, and you’ll grow comfortable asking them questions and carrying on conversations.

Be the person that customers want to talk to. Keep that twinkle in your eye, and the smile on your face. The more positive and helpful you are, the more customer loyalty you can expect from your visitors. There is no end to making a customer feel good and appreciated. Learn to talk to your customers like a pro, and they will love coming to say hello.

Inspired by: 2Techniques for Speaking with a Customer, 3The Best Ways to Speak to a Customer