News recently broke that Walmart plans to get rid of their store greeter position at approximately 1,000 stores by the end of April 2019. The company was one of the first to incorporate this job, first implementing greeters in 1980 – and for nearly 40 years now, Walmart has mostly hired people with disabilities to fill this role. This news received plenty of backlash, especially from groups who support disabled workers’ rights. In an attempt to put out the flames, Walmart claimed that it would create or find new roles for these displaced workers.
While this story has several implications for Walmart, the industry, and workers with disabilities, it raises another sweeping question: are store greeters even necessary? If you own a retail or grocery business, you must seriously consider this question. After all, a greeter is on payroll just like any other employee. If this position costs the business more than it benefits it, you might suddenly find yourself in Walmart’s shoes.
It seems that Walmart is looking toward new avenues, replacing the role of greeter with “customer host” that involves some more responsibilities than just greeting customers. However, the line between these roles is blurry, as every company who hires greeters implements them in slightly different ways. Let’s look at some of the roles store greeters play, and how they might benefit a business. This information may help you decide whether or not your store should have a greeter.
Why Do Stores Have Greeters?
Great for Brand Reputation
Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, came up with the role of store greeter as a way to welcome customers and put a human face to the company’s brand. In a world where face-to-face interactions are becoming less common, this small gesture can make a big difference. True, some customers might ignore greeters or even find them annoying, but most people appreciate receiving a friendly “hello” when they enter a space.
Store greeters enhance a brand’s reputation by acknowledging each and every customer that steps foot in the business. They also help build a level of trust with the customer by fostering a sense of community. Greeters may even help the business increase sales by putting customers in a good mood from the moment they enter, whether by simply saying “hello” or handing out treats from mini favor baskets on holidays. The happier the customer, the more likely they are to pick up some extra items along the way.
Help Customers Right Away
Store greeters are more than just smiling faces to welcome customers as they walk in. They can also provide value to a business by helping customers navigate the store. Of course, greeters must remain somewhat stationary, and therefore can’t walk with every customer to locate the items they’re looking for. However, greeters can at least point someone in the right direction. This is especially helpful for customers who are in a hurry and only need to find one or two specific goods or need to be directed to customer service or restroom areas.
Beyond helping with store navigation, greeters might also handily provide customers with shopping baskets if they forgot to grab one before entering. Additionally, if the store is in a heavily populated tourist location, greeters might even be able to give customers information on nearby restaurants, sights, or activities in the area. Whatever the case, a greeter is there to help the shopper in any way possible.
Greeters Discourage Shoplifting
Having someone stationed by the store’s entrance and exit serves an even more practical purpose: guarding against theft. No store can completely eliminate theft, of course. Closed-circuit cameras placed inside and outside the store certainly help prevent goods from being stolen. However, not every retailer can afford to install so many cameras or process all the data. Plus, cameras can’t always capture someone swiping small objects from the shelf.
Humans can’t magically detect every stolen item, but the very presence of a store greeter reduces the risk theft in two key ways. First, psychologically, people are less likely to steal from a business if they’ve made direct contact with an employee. Some shoppers feel that stealing some candy or lighters from a massive corporation doesn’t make a dent in its bottom-line. This may have a grain of truth to it, but employees rely on that corporation’s success to receive their paycheck. Immediately Interacting with an employee may deter some folks from attempting to steal.
Second, greeters may also be required to check customers’ receipts and shopping carts before letting them exit the store. This is more common for warehouse/wholesale clubs and retailers who sell big-ticket items, but with the rise of self-checkout lanes, more stores are beginning to implement this final check.
Helps Employ Those with Disabilities
As mentioned at the beginning, the majority of Walmart’s greeters are workers with disabilities. This is in large part why their decision to eliminate the position drew so much ire. The job of greeter provides opportunities for those who might otherwise struggle to find employment, whether due to a disability, injury, or other circumstance. Hiring people with disabilities strengthens the community by giving more people a sense of purpose, economic power, and independence.
Greeters May Fulfill Other Tasks and Roles
It remains to be seen whether Walmart keeps its promise and successfully retains this portion of its workforce by shifting the role of greeter to customer host. But whatever you choose to label the position, greeters might do a lot more than simply wave hello to incoming customers. Some of these additional tasks may include returning carts to shopping cart corrals, assisting customers with self-checkout processing, collecting and returning baskets in a basket roller, and, again, performing a final check of customer receipts to prevent theft.
So, Should You Hire a Greeter?
Every business must weigh the costs and benefits to determine how many people to hire, which roles need fulfilling, and what will ultimately improve the company. In some cases, hiring a store greeter may yield several positive effects, while in others, it might just burden the store’s bottom line. No matter your choice, however, and no matter what companies like Walmart ultimately decide, store greeters are pleasant additions to stores that most people enjoy encountering each and every time.
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