In yesterday’s discussion on how to “replace smiles” when staff must wear masks, we considered the effect all of our senses have in terms of guest engagement. While all of the senses can greatly contribute to your guests’ experiences, the smile is the true heart of all customer facing businesses.
Ever had someone thank you profusely for visiting their business with a frown? Weird, right. It doesn’t go over well. A smile can make someone’s day and provide the perfect reaction. A smile can convey happiness and appreciation without any words to accompany. Make your guests feel welcomed without facial expression.
Before we discuss how you can replace the smile, let’s look at other examples of when you’re unable to actually use a smile and employ unique methods to replicate the emotion.
Think of sending a text message to your best friend, followed by your favorite emoji demonstrating your feelings. Does this help? Yes. Is it the same as seeing an actual face? No. How about on Halloween? This is an occasion we’re accustomed to dressing up and wearing masks. These masks are quite a bit different than those worn for protection, but they can also serve as an example. When we wear a Halloween mask, we are playing a character. It is our job to portray that persona through all our non-facial behaviors.
In that spirit, here are five strategies, centered around typical mouth functions, that can help us approximate “service with a smile” during the new normal.
Use your words.
When a guest’s visit begins with a sincere greeting and ends with a thank you, that guest is 32 percent more likely to recommend and return to your brewery than when they don’t receive either. Let your guest know how much you value that they chose to visit brewery. Your personality can radiate in a similar manner to your smile. Let is shine.
Don’t just use your words, use your voice.
Let your excitement be heard through the way you speak. Simple changes in your intonation, the rise and fall of your tone, can express different emotions. The phrase “It’s great to see you today” can be spoken with various levels on energy. When said flatly, it is lacking in sincerity. When spoken with a little gusto it can be an expression of excitement.
Use your hands.
Often, I get told that I move my hands a little too much when I speak. Well, guess what? If you can’t see my enthusiasm through my smile, I’m definitely going to let my passion speak through my gestures. Get animated when explaining your current beers on tap. Point at different places in the brewery when explaining the brewing process to a guest. “This is where we brew the beer” and “this is where our quality control experts test each batch to assure quality.” Actions can speak louder than words, and unfortunately are much more visible than your smile. Additionally, something as simple as placing a guest’s drink or flight in front of them carefully as you introduce it can demonstrate your happiness to serve.
Your face is more than just your mouth.
Everyone has different facial movements that accompany mouth movements when speaking. Some people’s eyes open wider when surprised. A person’s forehead may wrinkle when confused or sad. A face may lengthen as a result of a person opening their mouth wide when in awe. Eyebrows move, too, depending on your mood. Don’t forget those cheeks! Many peoples’ cheeks get a little raised when they’re happy. While not fully visible behind a face mask, the movement can still be noticeable. Facial expressions can help convey emotion when your smile cannot.
Draw a smile on your face mask with a non-toxic marker.
Ok, this one is kind of a cheat, but let safety be your personality. Even consider ordering branded face masks for your brewery. These could also be a potential merch item. Has anyone attached a red beard to a face mask yet?
Do not let face masks scare you and your guests. They are merely another hurdle we must face in the quest to normalcy, or whatever that may end up being. Use the face mask as motivation to create new streams of creativity. Challenge yourself and your staff to discover non-traditional methods to communicate and connect. Guests appreciate your ability to innovate their experience just as much as they do your skill to constantly strive to brew the best beer possible.
Andrew Coplon is the Founder of Secret Hopper, a mystery shopping company for craft beer businesses, and Craft Beer Professionals, a community dedicated to the growth and betterment of our industry. Check out all of his CBB articles here.