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How to Talk to Customers When You're Shy in Customer Service

Amanda is a recent graduate from Southern New Hampshire University where she got a Bachelor's of Psychology.

Customer Interaction in Customer Service

Customer interaction is a huge part of the retail and customer service scene. For one, interacting with customers allows you to properly help the customer and two, it allows the customer to know you are around in case they need help and to know they are being watched to decrease shop-lifting.

Even the greatest cashier is nothing without proper customer interaction, but if you are extremely shy, like me, it can be very difficult for you to break out of your shell and talk to customers first. This hub will give you tips on talking to customers in a retail setting.

Identify Why You're Shy

Solving your shyness for the long-term should be the ultimate goal. One of the biggest things you can do to help overcome your shyness is to identify that there is a problem. If you can identify why you're shy, you work to resolve the specific reason so it can be easier to overcome your shyness. Of course, sometimes resolving the specific cause can require medical help. If you feel like your shyness is affecting your normal life, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about possibly seeking the help of a therapist or mental health specialist to see if there is a bigger issue.

Working in customer service can be hard if you're shy, but it is possible!

Working in customer service can be hard if you're shy, but it is possible!

Take Baby Steps

Don't expect to be able to talk to customers right away. Start small and work your way up. When you first start out your day, just greet customers as they come in with a 'hello' and a smile. Then, when you feel comfortable with that, add a 'how are you today?'

Of course, if someone comes up to you and asks for assistance, help them the best you can. If you absolutely are not ready, direct them to one of your co-workers that can help them better.

Make a Script

If talking to customers is hard for you, making a script is a great way to ensure messing up is minimal. Of course, there is no way to tell which customers will be more involved in replying and this takes some flexibility, but making a script is a great way to start an ice breaker.

Below is one of the scripts I use when I'm ringing up customers:

Me: (smile) Hello! Is this all for you today?

<Customer answers>

Me: And did you find everything all right today?

<Customer answers>


I will then continue to make small talk if I'm comfortable. If I ring up an item that I've used and love, I will ask them if they've tried it and rave about it. Usually that's a great way to get a customer to smile and interact.

Set Goals

If you give yourself something to strive for when you're trying to overcome your shyness, it will encourage you to keep going after you've hit your goals. You already know that your ultimate goal is to overcome your shyness, whether it be to make it manageable while you're working or overcoming it overall. But, make sure to set small goals that you can hit along the way to the overall goal.

Make sure that the goals have a deadline. By setting a deadline, you will motivate yourself to strive to hit them. By not setting a deadline, you are allowing yourself to put off the work you should put in.

Also, write your goals down and put them somewhere you'll see them. Be sure to check off the goals when you've hit them too!

Examples of Short-Term Goals

Go to a public speaking class once a month.

Greet 5 customers in one day.

Ask one customer every week if they are being helped.

Don't Push Yourself

You know your limits. It's better to realize that you've had enough of pushing your limits and not push them any more than to overpush yourself and regress. Going back to taking baby steps, realize that even if you only do something small to help you overcome your shyness, you're still doing something.

If you are shy talking to people in person, your boss may allow you to help customers via phone.

If you are shy talking to people in person, your boss may allow you to help customers via phone.

Communicate With Your Peers

If your shyness is so severe that it impacts your work, it is important to communicate with your superiors and possibly your peers about the issue. Especially if you're working on fixing it, having good communication with your peers can allow them to pick up the slack or even encourage you when you are having a hard time.

If your shyness is interfering with your work, communicate with your superior to see if there is something that can be done until your issues are resolved. Make sure to give them updates as needed.

Practice with Someone

Although it is not the same, practicing with someone you are comfortable with and role-playing may help you when you are in the real setting. Make sure to use your script if you have one, and take it seriously. Also, if you are ever in a position where you can use your customer service skills alongside someone you feel comfortable with (let's say, at a garage sale) practice with your someone.

By practicing with someone you're comfortable with, you are allowing yourself to get in the practice that you need and opening yourself up to critiques from the other person. They may be able to give you pointers and tips that are directly related to you.

Observe Others and Their Interactions

A great way to overcome your shyness is learning what to do when you are put in a certain situation. When you are out shopping or working, observe your peers, customers, and employees to see how they interact with you or others.

Each situation requires a different conversation and sometimes you can't always be prepared for it. But, the more you observe, the more prepared you'll be for situations that may arise.

Keep in mind, that you should add your own flair and personality to your interactions with customers and peers. Your observations should solely be examples that you can use as a guideline.

Taking a Public Speaking class can help you overcome your shyness.

Taking a Public Speaking class can help you overcome your shyness.

Take a Public Speaking Course

If you find yourself having the opportunity to take a Public Speaking class, I highly suggest it. You may not be training to give speeches to a public mass, but learning how to speak publicly can help you learn how to speak to strangers and customers.

Chances are, the other students in a public speaking class are shy like you and want to gain the knowledge to overcome their shyness. By allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a safe place among others that share the same shyness as you can help you connect and overcome your shyness.

Focus on Your Own Progress

Probably the most important tip on overcoming your shyness is to focus on your own progress instead of others. You are not alone in being shy but that doesn't mean that you will all overcome your shyness in the same timeline and the same way.

You are the best person to know what will work and what won't. You may not overcome your shyness in the timeframe you want, but know that you will get there. Focusing on other's progress will only make your achievements and goals feel a long way off. Any progress you make is worth celebrating. Don't let the success of others diminish your own success.