For Pete’s Sake Learn How To Smile

Research in the United States undertaken by dentists in the year 2000 indicated that children smile on average more than 400 times a day whereas adults smile on average less than 15 times a day. And what’s staggering is that further research since that time, has suggested that we are turning our children into non-smiling mini-adults almost as quickly as political correctness is destroying the facial muscles that support laughter in the physically maturing segment of the population to which I – sadly – belong.

It seems somewhere between the innocence of childhood and the cynicism of adulthood our smile gene is ruthlessly exorcised by the fun police and that we adults then turn around to our kids and increasingly ensure they don’t have more fun than we do. By 2050 we may have lost all memory of smiling altogether and the term comedian will only relate to someone that has delivered a report that is ‘laughable’. Although laughable by then will be a dictionary definition and not a physical expression.

Alas this trend is abundantly evident in contemporary retail.

In an industry that was built off the back of aspirational experiences, it is alarming how few people in retail businesses from the CEO and Board all the way to the shop floor comprehend the joy of a smile or the power of laughter. When up to 92% of why a customer buys is emotional or sub-conscious, it always amazes me how hard it can be to get retail staff to crack a smile today. I know there are people who do smile and laugh in retail stores. But the number is shrinking and that is the disturbing trend.

Dr. Madan Kataria is a Mumbai physician and Founder / President of the Laughter Club International. He says “children laugh unconditionally while adults do so only if there is a cause. The (Laughter) Club is a joint effort by like-minded people to liberate laughter and happiness from reason for where there is logic, there is no laughter. The very essence of laughter is absurdity. Up to 70% of illnesses are created by stress and laughter has been proven over and over to reduce stress and increase success in preventative therapy”.

In retail we know stress detracts from the natural engagement of our store staff and our customers. But we need to be reminded not only of the power of a smile and laughter to eradicate the negative effects of stress on our staff but also their ability to impact customer behaviour.

Stanley Goodman – the former President of May Corporation – once said, “Retail is entertainment and the store is a stage. When the customer has fun they spend more money.”

A simple thing. A smile goes a long way. It breaks the ice. It builds rapport. It engages. It is attractive. Genuine laughter is even better. It is time we lighten up. We live in a world where there is no shortage of negativity, pressure and stress. A great retail experience is the opposite. It lifts you up. To borrow from Red Bull, a great retail experience “Gives you wings”. And it all starts with a smile. Help your people to rediscover the joys of childhood when they shared more than 400 smiles a day with whomever they came in contact with.