Customer service sucks – is it the holidays?

QueueAnyone who has been interacting with a customer service rep or in-store clerk since Thanksgiving may be wondering this very thing!   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 kids don’t see 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.

1 Response

  1. Ahhh…not quite Thanksgiving and we are already experiencing this same issue with the Christams ramp-up. Now that store are competing earlier and earlier for our Holiday dollars (it seems that Labor Day launches the season now!), I have seen extra staff on hand on many Big Box and other stores as each tries to capture some of the $924 Americans are expected to spend per person this year on gifts.

    One would think with all that potential revenue / sales and the extra staff that have been hired and (possibly) trained, that customer service would soar into dizzying heights during the holidays.

    Not so, my friends, not so. Based on experiences so far, there is too much Generation Slack and too little good service.

    One exception is online shopping. All articles have pointed to the fact that big retailers are offering major incentives to get us to go online – free shipping, discounts and promotions, you name it to woo our (almost) thousand dollars.

    Sounds good to me, I’ll let you know how it goes in the next few weeks.