If your staff are like Velcro, they need help.

"Would you like fries with that?" is a great example of how a subtle suggestion increased sales at McDonalds. Encouraging your staff to suggest more, better or different products/services to your customers, could do wonders for your business too BUT, don't assume every employee will communicate suggestions in the same way.

The key word is subtle. You have probably heard the term "subtle as a sledge hammer", which is exactly how many employees behave when it comes to enticing customers to spend more time or money with a business.

I refer to it as "Over Sell" and in my experience (and the experience of most of our 4,000+ Service Excellence session attendees), it's a real problem. “Over Sell” has customers leaving in a hurry, never returning and cautioning friends and family to avoid a business.

Here's an "Over Sell" example ( and yes, it happened to me):

You walk into a business......

1. You receive an instant happy greeting with eye contact from what appears to be a genuinely "pleased you are here" staff member.

2. The staff member approaches you and shares the current specials. She/he seems really excited about the specials. You didn't really hear the specials because he/she has rattled them off faster than an Aldi employee can scan your items. 

3. You say "Thank you" and you move away from the employee.

4. Staff member follows you and asks “What are you looking for today" Argh, the sneaky Open Question that you can't say YES or NO to, thus leading you to have a chat. You give staff member a little bit of credit for this tactic BUT, you are prepared for that old chestnut...

5. You say "Nothing thanks, I'm just browsing". You keep your head down and move away from them.

6. Staff member doesn't take the hint. She/he follows you and suggests you check out the latest blingy thingy that has bells and whistles.

7. You say " OK, sounds good - I'll check it out in a minute".  You hope that will be what is required to make highly annoying, too damn happy and way too chatty staff member to BACK OFF.

8. Staff member has turned into Velcro. They are stuck to your side, you fear never being able to get out without at least looking at blingy thingy. You pray for another customer to come in, for your phone to ring for the fire alarm to go off, for an earthquake.

9. You eventually escape by feigning an appointment you must get to and you promise you will come back to check out blingy thingy later. 

10. You tell everyone you know about your negative experience. You don't know the name of the employee so you use the name of the business. 

Over Sell happens when a business advises employees WHAT to do and doesn't train them HOW to do it successfully. Often the reason for telling instead of training is training takes time and who has the time to train what should be common sense?  

Service Excellence is not common sense. It’s a set of skills that require training.

The skills required to be a successful suggestive seller and to provide consistently excellent customer service are called soft skills. Soft skills are your people skills. It's your ability to communicate with customers in a way that leads them to want to stay, hear more, consider alternatives and leave feeling valued and respected and eager to share their great experience with others.

So how do you train your employees to make subtle suggestions that delight and not fright your customers?  How do you build a culture of Service Excellence into your business? Click here and all will be revealed.

By Cate Schreck - Author of "The A - Z of Service Excellence"