We all know that some cities and state officials are requiring face coverings when visiting businesses. However, some are not. Either way, you may be requiring face coverings for your employees and maybe even your customers. Why? To hopefully assure the health and safety of as many people as possible.

To many businesses, mask or no mask policy has presented several challenges to you, whether you’re open right now or you’re planning on reopening soon:
•    Some customers may object to wearing a mask.
•    I’ve noticed some employees are uncomfortable wearing masks and you may not get consistent compliance with your face mask policy. This may endanger both employees and customers, and even damage your reputation.
•    Some employees who were once outgoing and friendly may change their style when hidden behind a mask, either because they are uncomfortable with it and or feel they are missing out on engaging with customers while wearing a mask.

Unless employees are able to properly and sincerely greet and engage your customers from behind a mask, people who may already feel isolated or unable to connect may feel even more isolated. Without a human connection, customers are more likely to try another store next time, or to shop online.

Recently, I have been very busy with numerous requests from businesses to deliver virtual training workshops providing tips on how to connect with customers from behind a mask. Masks and social distancing are what’s changed as a result of COVID-19. What remains the same is that genuine human connections are still required to create Magical Customer Experiences, boost sales and to beat out your competition. The question is, how do you connect socially from behind a mask?

Here are a few tips to add when training your team on new health and safety protocols to help your employees feel more comfortable wearing a face covering. This will also help your customers feel more comfortable with you while making a genuine connection, whether you’re wearing a mask or not. 

Greet every customer with a genuine smile. In most cultures, a smile means you’re happy to see someone. When people can’t see your mouth, your eyes reveal a genuine smile. Look up from what you’re doing, smile, say “Hi!” or “Thanks for coming in!” and show you are happy to see your customers. They are the only reason your business is open. Period.
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Speak clearly and increase your volume. It is very frustrating when customers can’t hear you or understand what you are saying. When customers can hear and understand you, they are much happier.

Ask questions to check for understanding. A lot of customers may be too embarrassed to tell you they didn’t understand. Ask questions like, “Does this match up with what you were looking for?” “I think this is great! What do you think?” “I know it may be hard to hear me from inside this mask. Am I missing anything?” Said with a smile, these kinds of questions will be greatly appreciated.

Use body language to connect. Facial eye contact, not staring, when speaking. Nod your head to indicate you’re listening. Look approachable and engaging with your arms and relaxed body. Even if you are social distancing, you can still be social with your body language.

Stay positive. Although it may be awkward, uncomfortable, hot, and even frustrating to you while wearing a mask all day, remaining positive with a good attitude in front of your customers and team mates is a must.

Observe and help employees practice these tips in front of customers, recognizing employees for a job well done. People tend to do what they get recognized for and make sure people are recognized as often as possible. 

Just this week, while visiting a local retail store, I was sincerely greeted by every employee I encountered. They looked up from cleaning and stocking to say hello. I could tell they were happy to see me because they were smiling with their eyes. I returned the favor by asking them how they were doing. I even asked them how they were handling wearing a mask all day. Their response was  nothing but positive. In fact, one employee told me it was important for the safety of their customers and fellow team members. Wow! Well done! It felt good to connect! We were all happier and as a result I will go back.

Do your employees respond that way to your customers? They certainly should if you want to survive in today’s present situation. Again, unless your employees are able to properly and sincerely greet, engage and create a human connection with your customers from behind a mask,  customers are more likely to do business elsewhere or shop online. Make every effort to connect with your customers and the results will be Magical! Need help? Feel free to reach out at info@johnformica.com.