If the best things in life are free why not give your customer the best thing for free? It won’t cost you a dime and it’s likely to encourage your customer’s loyalty. “It” is a smile—a genuine smile. The keyword is “genuine” and we’ll get to that in a moment.

I recently read an article in my hometown newspaper about a barber who celebrated 40 years in business. When the reporter asked Cosmo Panetta the secret to his business longevity he said, “The main thing is when a customer comes through the door, you have to smile at them…make sure when they walk out of the door they say, ‘Man, I feel great!’”

The smile is the most overlooked gesture in customer service, and it’s the most impactful.

When I interviewed New York City restaurant king Danny Meyer for this article, I read his customer service book, Setting the Table. Meyer tells the story of the first great review his restaurant received in The New York Times. It helped to put Union Square Café on the map. He recalls that the reviewer “took note of the smile in the reservationists’ voices on the phone, the smile at the front door, the smile on the waiters’ faces.” A sincere smile makes people feel good about doing business with an establishment, and it’s free.

There are times, however, when we all need to be reminded to smile. When I interviewed a former retail executive for Tesla auto dealerships, he said that the Tesla customer service model is to make sure visitors feel good when they leave the store. If they feel good, they’ll feel good about the experience, and are more likely to tell others about it.

“How do you make people feel good?” I asked.

“The product specialist has a single job—to make sure that when you leave, you’re smiling,” the retail executive said.

The Tesla executive pointed to a sign in the back of the store. The sign is the last thing employees see before they hit the sales floor. Although it’s visible to customers, it’s meant for the staff. It reads: Our goal is to deliver the most innovative cars in the world, to as many people as possible, while making them smile…everyday!”

Brands that are considered customer service specialists learned long ago that a smile is the simplest and one of the most powerful gestures an employee can make. They also realize you can’t fake it. In fact researchers are finding that ‘fake’ smiles have a negative impact on consumer behavior. Customer service champions have made hiring an art. At the Apple Store, for example, “hiring for smiles” isn’t just a platitude. Apple Store managers are serious about hiring happy people.

“We can train you to talk about an iPad; we can’t train you to smile,” one manager told me.

A smile is powerful, free, and it works. Try it on for size. You might like it and your customers will, too.

 

This article was written by Carmine Gallo from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.