I was in a business recently where I couldn’t buy a smile.
You know the type. You walk in and the clerk or receptionist seems to be having a bad day. Maybe you crack a joke or offer a compliment, but there’s no change in the demeanour.
You feel awkward, like you’re an imposition to the service person. So you leave the business, wondering if it was you and if you should even dare to go back.
In the service or sales industries, a smile is the cheapest and most effective way to get customers to come back. When we take that second just to look in the eyes of our prospects, acknowledge them and offer a sincere smile, we can change lives and drive our business.
Think about the times when people have smiled at you: that baby’s first smile that gave you such joy; the smile of that classmate in elementary school that told you that someone wanted to be your friend; the smile of a parent or grandparent telling you that you’re loved.
A smile can build bridges after an argument. A knowing smile between friends can make you feel warm, and the twinkling eyes and smile of someone who loves you can make a huge difference in a relationship.
A smile might cost you some energy, a few seconds of your time, but what can it do?
Research shows that when we smile at our staff, they are more likely to want to work for us; that you will make more friends and influence more people when you smile. Happy people have been shown to be able to solve problems easier than those who are somber.
A study by Danielle Shore of Bangor University in 2011 found that people are actually more likely to buy from those who are smiling.
We spend so much of our lives thinking that we have to be serious; that playing to win can’t be fun; that we have to be tough to win in negotiations and tough means we need to frown.
We’re told that if we’re too nice that people will take advantage of our good nature. We avoid smiling at strangers because they might think we’re just crazy. So we don’t let ourselves be vulnerable, and that starts by putting on a gruff exterior and removing the smile.
Think about the people you like spending time with. What separates them from the people you avoid?
Chances are that the people you like spending time with smile at you more often than those you avoid.
Now think about the businesses that you like to frequent. Do the people in those businesses smile when they see you or are they somber?
So if smiling can affect businesses visits and probably sales, what do you need to do in your business to create a culture where it looks like your employees are having fun? How do we get our employees to smile more?
Every business is different, but as leaders part of your job is to create a safe space for your employees where they can be relaxed enough to do their jobs. If your employees are tense when working with the public, chances are they won’t be smiling much.
Creating the right culture starts when we hire employees. If smiling is important, part of our interview process will be trying to ensure that we hire people who smile easily and can relate to people. Training new employees to our expectations of smiling and customer interactions, and keeping them accountable to those expectations, is essential.
There are going to be challenges and adversity in our lives and our businesses that will make it difficult to smile at times. However, the inability to sustain a company full of happy, smiling people will cost us business in the long run. Supporting our employees so they feel a sense of happiness when they’re at work is our job as leaders and smiling starts with us.
Smiles are cheap but have an impact on the bottom line of our businesses, and our lives and the lives of those around us.
Maybe take the time to start smiling at your staff and customers today. Make the world a better place, one smile at a time.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Make Dave smile by sending him an email with your thoughts on this article firstname.lastname@example.org