Has the Holiday Shopping Season Started Off with Quality Customer Service?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday certainly hit the news. Between the deals that started Thanksgiving night when the turkey was barely off the dining room table to Cyber Monday when the children just crawled into their beds Sunday night only to be awakened by the sound of mom’s manicured nails tapping at the keys and hitting “shopping cart,” the frenzy continued.
On Friday, it got so bad the police were using pepper spray to fend off the over-anxious shoppers, the lines to get into stores wrapped twice around the parking lots, and employees yawned and complained as they had to report to work at “dark o’clock” and be bubbly and alert. Hardly sounds like much customer service was going on.
So now statistics and polls get confusing. Dozens of surveys state that customers will pay more for a better customer service experience. Customers get turned off if a retail organization gets it wrong and doesn’t make it right in a short amount of time, or consumers resent the purely impersonal treatment of such grandiosity displays of super sales.
Off to the mall I went this afternoon in search of shoppers who braved the crowds, who fought the parking lot musical car juggle, who dived into the $49.99 cashmere sweater sale, and who found and purchased 47 inch LED televisions for $199.00. And what did I discover from my unscientific research? Polly M. told me it was only the deep discounts that motivated her to a particular store to purchase sports equipment for her son and a gold bracelet for her daughter, but said she had no intentions of returning to either of the stores because of their lack of customer service. Mark H. told me his Internet shopping on Monday was much more civilized than his experience at Target on Friday, but the sales were too good to pass up despite the long check out line, the difficulty finding a parking space, and having to deal with the rudeness of other shoppers.
According to the National Retail Federation, the four-day shopping weekend which now includes Thanksgiving day, consumers spent $52.4 billion which is up 16 percent from last year’s $45 billion in sales. There is no way however anyone can guarantee that this kind of shopping will continue for the next five weeks, nor does it guarantee that any of these shoppers will return to the stores which offered the biggest discounts this past weekend.
In the long run, when I asked several more shoppers how they felt about price versus customer service, most seemed to make Black Friday and it’s friend Cyber Monday exceptions to the customer service expectations although everyone questioned expects the return and refund policies to follow suit if the need exists.
But even though the sales were huge, the shoppers all agreed on what they look for in outstanding customer service. Polly looks for friendly and knowledgeable staff, Mark expects an organization to answer his calls when he has a problem with a product, Amy looks for the personal touch and everyone I spoke to wanted me to remind all businesses to remember to tell their customers they are appreciated.
photo credit: Hotcouponworld.com
Douglas Hanna is CEO of A Small Orange, a high-end web hosting company that prides itself on quality customer service and support. In addition to his role at A Small Orange, Douglas founded and writes for Service Untitled, a popular blog on customer service and the customer service experience.
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