How Much is a Smile Worth?

Smiling customer service woman
Do you prefer to work with someone that turns your mood sour? Or do you like to buy from people who brighten your day?

The attitude you use to market your business can attract customers like a magnet, or repel them like nasty in-laws.

How friendly is your attitude? Do you smile enough? Even more importantly, do you show that smile to your clients?

The crushing effect of a bad attitude

Having a bad day? A rough month? Make sure to maintain your smile—or you might end up like the tool rental shop in this story…

A small tool rental shop has a complete monopoly in town. The owners have everything going for them—and they’re the only business offering tool rentals to the public. The competing tool rental shop is an hour away.

It’s a family-run business, and it’s not a happy family, either. The wife gripes at the husband. He mutters and heads back into the stockroom. The daughter ducks her head as she goes back to work on the accounting. The son glances up, turns a shoulder and his tone drops a few notches while he serves a client.

It gets worse. The family-owned shop is small, and they care about money a great deal. It’s tight. They don’t negotiate prices with clients. They charge more than other stores in other cities. They don’t run many charge accounts, even though invoicing clients is common in the industry. They even take people to small claims court when a bill is overdue by a few days.

Good for business? No way. This little shop has a reputation around town of being a pain to deal with. Customers put off going to rent tools because they don’t want their day ruined. They talk with other people, telling them about their negative experiences.

And potential customers do go elsewhere. These potential customers drive a two-hour round trip just to deal with a tool rental shop where they feel welcome and appreciated. They lose time and money to spend their dollars elsewhere.

The tool shop? They’ve been struggling for years. Every marketing method they’ve tried fails, no matter how good it is or how well thought-out the campaign might be.

When common knowledge doesn’t make a difference

Are you shaking your head by now? Do you think a smile with service goes without say? It should be common knowledge, right?

It is common knowledge, but it certainly isn’t common practice.

Most people know about the benefits of a friendly face, but many less than that actually smile on a regular basis. It’s up to you to turn that knowledge into practice with your business.

A smile everywhere

Smiles are easily conveyed in person. We can see the smile; it’s tangible. It’s catchy, too. When someone smiles at you, your natural tendency is to smile back, feeling a little better.

We can hear smiles as well. Not only does our expression change when we smile, but our voice changes, too. The inflection is different and we can easily pass on a smile through the phone lines. And that smile comes back to you, too. Try smiling the next time you talk to someone on a phone.

Even technology conveys a smile. If you have a website, you can put a friendly tone into your web content and communicate a smile in your emails. People can read smiles in words, capturing the pleasant tone just through careful wording or the proper style. Emoticons allow us even more advantage to pass on our smile.

The result? The potential customer feels good, relaxed and more comfortable. You might guarantee a sale just by using a smile. You might not, too, but you won’t lose any business, either. You’ll also keep your good reputation, and you may be considered a potential business to work with in the future.

Faking it doesn’t work

Be forewarned—a fake smile is easily discernible. When testing images of facial expressions that compare a true smile to a fake smile, studies have shown that true smiles are easily spotted—and false smiles are almost always noticed.

The eyes give it away. They lack warmth. A false smile may change the shape of your mouth, but it doesn’t properly reach your eyes for that little crinkle in the corners. That counts.

So smile, and make it real. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to show a person that you’d like to have them as a client.

Reader Comments

Apr. 10. 2008 4:13 PM

Simple, but very powerful advice. There is actually a cafe nearby that has very unfriendly service and loses a great deal of clients because of it.

In addition, smiles do more than just help your business - they make your world a little brighter too.

Thanks for refreshing everyone’s mind on a topic that is often taken for granted!

Apr. 10. 2008 5:46 PM

This is one thing most people comment about me when they meet me in person. I am alway smiling and in a good mood (unless I’m weight training or doing some conditioning work for MMA fights, then I’m in a bad mood). Smiles are free; and contagious. :)

Apr. 10. 2008 6:26 PM

We’ve all experienced bad customer service + lack of common courtesy.

A smile is a great way to stand out among the sea the cranky pants that plague our society.

Thanks for the succinct insight.

Apr. 10. 2008 7:36 PM

I’m always amazed at how many people forget to smile or just don’t bother. The woman at the grocery cash, the man at the corner store… I always smile and say, “Hi,” when I set down my things to pay. I’m often greeted with silence, a glance, and a flat request for money.

Yuck. That’s marketing?

Apr. 10. 2008 7:53 PM


I know EXACTLY how you feel. I play a game where I try to encourage a smile from my local convenience store clerks, it’s really quite amazing how many of them are stone-faced and determined not to be happy.

Not only is that bad marketing, it’s just not, well, happy.

Apr. 10. 2008 7:55 PM


It’s really hard to smile when you’re lifting weights or hitting something isn’t it. I usually make a sort of growling face.

I think if you used that for business it might scare some people off…

Apr. 11. 2008 1:10 AM

@ Mason - Yeah, I tend to leave that face in the gym :)

@ James - I get that same weird look. Even with the “Have a nice day” I get no reply 9 out of 10 times.

Anyone tried opening a door for someone and NOT get a thank you? That gets under my skin too. :)

Apr. 14. 2008 7:40 PM

Every time I go to the local Chick-Fil-A chain, I notice they have a new policy.  They respond to every request not with a “Yes,” and “Ok,” or a “Sure,” but with these two words:

“My pleasure.”

It’s not surprising that even though they are closed on Sundays (possibly the biggest day of the week for fast-food chains), their bottom line isn’t hurting in the least.

Apr. 16. 2008 7:23 AM

Great advice, I don’t know how many times I’ve stopped doing business with a certain place, no matter how I might have needed their service, just because I felt awkward and uncomfortable with them… So, no matter my mood, I push the negativity aside when I’m dealing with customers… Or even when I am a customer..

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