Anyone who has been interacting with a customer service rep or in-store clerk since Thanksgiving may be echoing this sentiment. Many shoppers dread this time of year. According to USA Today, more than half of shoppers say the experience is a bore or a chore. It is indeed a chore when retailers can’t put their best foot forward at a time of year that brings in a large percentage of their annual sales. What is the answer when a customer thinks, ”Is this always how it goes at (fill in the blank) store, or is this just because of the holidays?” They might even be tempted to ask that question out loud. I did, and the response was not good.
I was at an office supplies store last week during a weekday, which I thought would be an improvement over weekend crowds. ”They sure do get a lot of disgruntled customers,” I thought, so I smiled as I approached the cashier. As I handed him the slip for retrieval of the digital camera I was purchasing (hope my dad doesn't read this), he grunted and gave it to the “runner” who would go and get my purchase. So far, he hadn’t said a word to me. So I ask “the question”. His sullen response, “No, it’s always like this.” End of conversation. I felt like I was inconveniencing him, so I didn’t say anything else, took my purchase, and left. I don’t think I will be shopping there in the future.
The same experience is taking place all over malls, websites, and call centers. Temporary holiday help has been hired to ease customer wait times, but are they really ready to be part of your “face to the customer”? Every touch point is a critical part of the customer experience. Yes, easing customer wait times is very important, but so too is making sure the customer experience doesn’t come crashing down as a result of too much holiday spirit!
A sincere smile and a “thank you very much for choosing to shop with us today” works wonders! Even if we are the ones who have to do the smiling.