The Hands-Off Customer: Who are they and how do you help them?

Hands-Off Customers should not be ignored, but should be handled differently from other customers.

Every now and then someone walks into a store who does not want your attention. They’re not interested in your normal customer service tactics and skills; while they might appreciate all your efforts, they’ve no need of them. This is what we call a “Hands-Off Customer” in the sense that the customer service is not hands-on as it is with all the other stereotypes in this series.

Who is the Hands-off Customer & how to spot one…

The hands-off Customer can be a regular, but this isn’t necessarily the case. These are the people who come in knowing exactly what they’re looking for, probably where to find it in-store, and don’t want to be fussed or fluttered over. They’re on a mission and they’ve done the research; in sales-speak we might say that they are 90% of the way through the buyer journey and are now simply ready to grab what they need and pay.

It is essential for sales staff to learn to recognize a hands-off customer as soon as they’re greeted. The easiest way, of course, is to take a hint. When a customer says ‘no, thanks, I know I need’, it’s a good sign that they don’t need any staff hovering over them. As with the other types of customers that might walk into the store, learning to spot these hands-off customers becomes easier with time.

Correctly Identified a Hands-Off Customer, now what?

Having established that one of these types of customers isn’t open to the normal customer service tactics does not mean that they should not be serviced at all. After all, they’re still a customer and deserve to have the same great experience that all people who walk into the store get.

How then do we service customers who don’t want to be serviced? The trick lies in adapting your style. Just because a customer says they’re ‘fine’ and ‘don’t need help, thank you’ does not mean that staff has permission to neglect this customer. Rather than hovering, or actively up- or cross-selling items, staff might keep a vigilant – albeit distant – eye on this hands-off customer. Check to see if they do indeed find what they’re after. It’s always possible, after all, that they can’t find the exact thing they wanted even though they know that the store carries the product. The idea is to be helpful when needed; the customer is already inspired, that part of the sales trick is done but it’s important to keep them inspired.

When the customer has found the item they’re looking for and is at the cashier ready to pay, a small amount of customer servicing can be accomplished. A quick “did you find everything you were looking for?” will generate the correct experience – staff let them be, but they are always aware of the customer’s status and needs.

Don’t forget to say goodbye!

After the purchase has been made, the farewell is equally important. Don’t let the customer think that they’ve been dismissed simply because they didn’t ask for help. Make them aware of the fact that staff was aware of them. No one truly wants to be ignored – left alone? Maybe, ignored? Never.

What’s left to say…

Even though a hands-off customer doesn’t need help doesn’t mean that they should be dismissed out of hand. What’s more, the same customer coming back might not be a hands-off customer; the next time they might need some real customer service. Be ready for them.

Essentially, the rule of thumb is as follows: No customer should be ignored, all customers should be serviced to some degree.