Shopping during the holidays can be a fun and festive time, but we’ve all experienced our share of service failures too. Huge crowds and exhausted employees can conspire to make shopping miserable if we're not prepared.
That’s why I reached out to some of my favorite customer service experts to ask them, “What can customers do to get better service during the holidays?”
Here are their terrific tips:
While we're busy with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we forget that those individuals we're needing service from are at work...and it's stressful, even more during the busy holiday time. Take time to celebrate with them, wish them a happy holiday. Remembering that they're a human being too with their own holiday plans helps bring humanity and personality back into the employee/customer relationship.
- Flavio Martins. Flavio is on a mission to end bad service and writes about it on his blog, The Customer Service Manager.
Don’t Be a Jerk
The customer has almost as much to do with the success of the interaction as the worker does. Manners, energy, gratitude, patience, mutual respect, and common courtesy are all critical. Just be a good person. Please don't undermine your own service experience by being a jerk.
- Patrick Maguire. Patrick’s outstanding I’m Your Server, Not Your Servant blog discusses customer service issues from the perspective of service industry workers.
People still judge a book by its cover. Just because you can wear jeans down around your butt, a muffin top and crocs doesn't mean they'll respect you in the morning – or in the store. Those who spend a bit of time to dress for the occasion receive elevated service.
- Bob Phibbs. Bob writes an excellent blog on retail sales, Bob Phibbs Retail Sales Blog, and is the author of several books including The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business.
Retailers hire a significant number of part-time seasonal staff to meet the demands of the holiday shopping season. Many of these employees are working multiple jobs and/or going to school on top of having to prepare for the holidays. To receive better service during the bustling holiday season, heed the advice of the Greek philosopher, Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
- Steve Curtin. Steve’s customer service blog has a great collection of customer service stories that all illustrate important lessons.
Touch the Heart
If you don't get a great rep, do what I teach the best to do -- touch the heart. A simple question, "how are you surviving the crunch today?" breaks through their self-focused attitude to the heart of customer service.
- Kate Nasser. Kate’s Smart SenseAbilities(TM) blog addresses the explicit and subtle moves that make customer service consistently great. She is also featured in the DVD, Customer Service USA - The Regional Differences That Make a Difference.
Most service providers feel more connected to you if you refer to them by name. If a provider's name isn’t volunteered, consider asking for it. Make this into a friendly exchange: ask in a sociable way, and also offer your name.
- Micah Solomon. Micah Solomon is a professional business keynote speaker and the bestselling author of two bestselling business books. His website is http://www.micahsolomon.com and his blog is College of the Customer, http://www.micahsolomon.com/blog.
Compliment Outstanding Service
Let them know that you believe that outstanding customer service is rare these days and that you really appreciated their efforts. And with leaving that associate on Cloud Nine, you have certainly guaranteed that the next customer will most certainly receive the same exceptional service.
- Bill Quiseng. Bill is the Resort Manager for Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club and writes about customer service on his blog, Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience.
Give Companies the Opportunity to Solve Problems
During the holiday season, companies are understaffed and employees are highly stressed. Mistakes will be made, and your holiday season will be that much easier if you allow companies a chance to make good when they drop the ball. Give companies a chance to fix problems before taking away your business or sending that angry tweet.
- Adam Toporek. Check out Adam’s Customers That Stick blog where you can also receive a free e-book called 7 Secret Customer Service Techniques Every Expert Knows!
Treat People the Way You and They Want to Be Treated
If you want better service practice two rules:
The Golden Rule – You grew up learning this one. Treat people the way you would want to be treated, which is with respect, dignity and patience.
The Platinum Rule – My friend Dr. Tony Alessandra came up with this one, and it is twist on the Golden Rule, which is to treat people the way they want to be treated. Show empathy.
Crowds, loud working conditions, too much food, too over committed, too many tasks pulling you in too many directions. Then you have to go to work and smile, be patient and provide excellent service! When you are a customer, be kind and empathize with your service provider - you know how they feel. Be part of making someones day better, not worse.
Wendi Brick. Wendi's company, Customer Service Advantage, Inc., specializes in helping government agencies improve service. She is also the author of The Science of Service: Six Essential Elements for Creating a Culture of Service in the Public Sector.
Do your homework. Be informed.
Educated customers make better customers. There are so many tools and resources at our fingertips to do price comparisons, find the best deals, read product reviews, locate products and get updates on availability, read about shipping policies and deadlines, and learn about return and exchange policies.
- Annette Gleneicki. Annette writes the CX Journey blog and leads Southern California networking events for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA).
One approach that guarantees a headache-free customer service holiday season is to avoid customer service representatives altogether. Checks are never returned or exchanged. No customer service issues involved … unless it bounces. If you're prone to bouncing checks, try money orders.
- Write The Company. The Write the Company blog features witty customer service correspondence with real companies. Read between the lines and you’ll be reminded not to take yourself too seriously.