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Start Your Business Success Stories

Hey, Neighbor: Why You Should Be Greeting Your In-Store Customers

image for Photo courtesy of Chris Rowland / Pet Supplies Plus
Photo courtesy of Chris Rowland / Pet Supplies Plus

Pet Supplies Plus takes a leaf out of Mr. Rogers' book when they talk about their patrons. Instead of "customers" or "guests," they're "neighbors" – friends coming to shop for a little something for their four-legged pals. In line with being a good neighbor, the store makes it a point to make all who come through the doors feel welcome – and that starts with a greeting.

Many companies are decreasing staff or closing their brick-and-mortar stores altogether in favor of shifting online, doing away with people-focused roles like greeters.

Most notably, Walmart announced in February that it will be replacing its blue-vested greeters with "customer hosts," who will still greet customers but will have other tasks to perform too. Many fear that this change signals a shift away from the human element in physical stores, but Chris Rowland, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, says there's nothing to worry about. He said the nature of customer service and retail is cyclical and that a personalized experience will always be in demand.

"Retail has always been in a constant state of change, from small businesses to regional malls to giant big-box stores, and now shifting to small local retailers again," he said. "People went from wanting local service to the ease and value of a big box. Now they're demanding all of it – convenience, price, service, social conscience."

Pet Supplies Plus feels that they deliver on all counts. After opening in Redford, Michigan, in 1988, the store grew to include more than 430 franchised locations across the United States. All of those locations strive to offer a warm, neighborly experience to everyone (human or otherwise) who comes through the doors, starting with a greeting.  

"We make [every greeting] unique, personal, authentic and welcoming," said Rowland. "If there's a pet, obviously they need to be greeted as well."

Rowland said that the company makes it a point for their greetings to be genuine, not contrived or forced. Many modern consumers have developed a sense for false friendliness, which is something Rowland actively tries to avoid.

"Virtually every customer acknowledges that they're greeted immediately upon entering," he said. "We don't have a typical 'greeter' role, so they are often pleasantly surprised and [the interaction] feels more authentic."

Pet Supplies Plus feels that a significant portion of their value as a company comes from their employees and how they make their neighbors feel, so they put a lot of effort into training and preparing the team to deliver stellar guest interactions.

"When every team member knows to take care of the customer, they'll want to go above and beyond," Rowland said. "Their role becomes making the shopping experience more enjoyable and positive."

Greeters and engaging staff members have been proven to increase customer satisfaction and reduce the possibility of shoplifting, and they can even help increase online sales.

Retail Dive did a survey that found more than 55% of consumers will visit a physical store before making their purchase online, which means that an effective, high-touch in-store experience will make consumers more likely to click "place order" later.

Rowland took the idea of an effective in-store experience and formed it into Pet Supplies Plus' motto – "minus the hassle," which means making every neighbor's experience as streamlined and easy as possible.

"It's about helping our neighbors to find better products, services and solutions for their pets," he said. "We do all the heavy lifting, so they have more time to enjoy their pet."

At the end of the day, providing an easy, positive shopping experience that values each individual customer is nothing but good business, and Pet Supplies Plus is committed to retaining the human element of interaction.

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and is now embracing her hipster side as a new resident of Brooklyn. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.