It’s time to can “Can I help you?”


Ever go into a store and have someone who worked there asked: Can I help you?” Of course you have. And 9 times out of 10 you replied with a “No thanks, I’m just looking.

That four-word question, “Can I help you?”, simply BEGS that response.

It’s programmed into our psyche.
We heard our parents say it, and they heard their parents say it, and your kids hear you say it.

Don’t you think it’s time to can the “Can I help you?”

My bet is it all started with a caveman who was checking out the fancy new “round thing” at the first Wheel Dealership and said it when the used-wheel salescaveman approached him when he walked into the showroom:

Caveman #1: Grok help you?

Caveman #2: Trog just looking…

I think we can be better than this stone age query being absentmindedly foisted upon our customers like hitting them over the head with a club.

Here are 30 better things to ask someone than “Can I help you?”

Note: Anywhere where I’ve written “this” or “which one” my intent is to indicate a product the customer is touching or looking at.

just-looking-store1. What can I help you find? (slightly better than “can I help you” — but even a little better is still better.)

2. What color were you trying to find?

3. Which one is your favorite?

4. This one is my favorite (indicating a specific item among the things the customer is viewing)

5. Were you thinking about this for yourself or as a gift?

6. The really good ones are in back — want me to check on the one you want?

7. Is this your first time in our store?
If “yes” you can point them to some hidden deals in the back of the store, if “no” you can tell them about a new display which may not have been there on their last visit.

8. I was thinking abut getting one of those for my mom/dad/sister/brother/friend/significant other — what drew you to it?

9. What did you learn on the internet about this model?

10. What’s the best website you found with reviews of this product?

11. Did you bring in any of your Google research on this item? Our customers find the best info!

12. Do you want to see some info I found about the product on Google?

13. I have some reviews from our customers on that item — want to see a couple?

14. Want to take a Selfie with it?

15. Want me to snap of pic of you in the outfit/holding the product/trying it out so you can send it to a friend for their opinion?


16. If you find a better price on your mobile phone let me know, and I’ll see if we can match it to save you a trip to another store.

17. Would you like me to hold on to that one for you while you continue to browse?

18. I can put that in a fitting room for you.

19. Looks like you’ll be ready to try those on soon, let me get a fitting room ready for you (and then go CLEAN the fitting room and Windex the mirror!)

20. If you like that style, you may want to take a look at this one too.

21. People really seem to like that one — a few of the people who looked at that one also looked at this one.

22. We’ve been selling a lot of those. People seem to love them!

23. We’ve sold so many of those that I had to buy one for myself! Here’s what I think about it…

24. If you decide to buy that item, you might want one of these (item #2), or one of these (item #3) to go with it.

25. That’s really nice — were you planning to use it/wear it/store it at home or at work?

26. We were just going to run around the corner for coffees, may we bring one back for you?

27. We have free wifi, do you want the password? (People love their free wifi, and if you change the password once per week you can easily initiate contact with this question. Pro Tip #1: Make the password a marketing message “Save10%onKitchenware” is a good one. Pro Tip #2: Have store staff write the passwords on the back of their business cards and hand them to the customer — individually and as-needed — not from a stack of pre-printed cards!)

28. Has anyone told you about our “secret specials” yet? (You’ll need to institute this process to use this opener, but it’s well worth it. Secret Specials are singular, daily, unadvertised sales/discounts/access to new items. Tell customers “this sale won’t be public until next week, but I can give you the discount today” or “we’re not putting this item on the shelves until Monday, but I can give you access today”. Don’t make it the same thing every week. If you want to add some personalization and creativity, Store Managers can create a list of 3-5 of these Secret Specials and let employees choose one to use for their shift.)

29. Do you have a lot of shopping to do today? We can hold your purchases for you while you visit other stores. (This is a great way to make sure your store is their final stop!)

30. Thank you for visiting the store today! Open your conversation with gratitude to the shopper for just choosing to enter your store. “Thank you” shouldn’t be reserved only as a reflexive statement when handing over a bag at the register (this is another pet peeve and will become a future post along the lines of this one!) Using “thank you” at the beginning of your interaction with set you apart.

Have another sales or service cliche you’d like some ideas for improving?

Drop me a line and tell me what it is. I’d love to help you with that…


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About Midwest Retail Services

Midwest Retail Services provides all the store fixtures needed to start, expand, or update your retail store. We serve a wide variety of businesses including pharmacy, grocery, pet supply, party supply, book, C-Store, discount, and many other retailers. We also support POP design and fulfillment, retail designers, architects, contractors, installers, and store fixture resellers.