Holiday Shopping: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – and How to Survive

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Now that Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are behind us – I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Much of what we talk about on this blog is about customer service and customer loyalty. Our core service offerings are personalized concierge services and premium customer care which we take very seriously. We, like every other company, know the importance of excellent service and treating the customer right. We know that by treating our customers and our clients’ customers right, we build loyal (and hopefully lifetime) fans of our brand, our product(s) and our service(s). A feat every company hopes to conquer.

Based on the numbers, the 2011 holiday shopping season has gotten off to a record start. According to the Black Friday weekend consumer survey conducted by BIGresearch for NRF, over half of U.S. consumers hit the stores this past weekend and almost a quarter of those consumers shopped on Thanksgiving Day. Overall, BIGresearch estimated that spending from Thursday through Sunday totaled approximately $52 billion, up 16% from the same period last year.

On Cyber Monday, Americans rang up $1.25 billion in online purchases which reflects an astonishing 22% over last year’s numbers and according to IBM Benchmark, the average order value also rose from $193.24 to $198.26. The most amazing fact about last week’s numbers is that comScore Inc. claims that the $1.25 billion is the heaviest online commerce day ever!

So, yes, so far it’s been a huge success for both retailers and shoppers – but that’s not to say all of this “success” doesn’t come without a price. As a matter of fact, Black Friday – especially this year, has brought out the worst in some of us. Reports of violence in at least five states, primarily at Walmart stores, including two shootings and a pepper-spraying incident have left me shocked and in disbelief. Now I know this isn’t new – Fifteen years ago, Tickle Me Elmo took over the 1996 holiday season and caused shoppers to turn vicious. But, seriously, is that doll or the discounted Xbox really worth your life – or someone else’s?

So, needless to say, this post is directed- not at the companies, corporations or brands – it is meant for us, the consumer. Like I said before, we are all about treating the customer right and providing excellent service to our customers and I can honestly say since I started working (quite a long time ago), I have always treated the customer right, regardless of how they acted towards me and what type of mood I was in. The problem is, oftentimes, we don’t behave the same way when we’re on the other side of the counter (or computer or phone) and in a lot of cases we, or at least I, should be ashamed of myself.

During this time of year – most people get stressed out. We get behind at work due to the holidays, stressed over shopping, getting everything done on time, spending money, etc. But, I think it’s important for us to step back, breathe and count to ten when necessary. When we do, it makes life easier and better – for everyone.

Case in point: On Sunday, I was watching a four hour lifetime movie (not sure if I should publicly admit that) but I was three hours into it and enjoying it when all of a sudden, my screen went blank and my cable box began making this humming sound (the sound of a hard drive rebooting). This has happened before and once it came back up – all was OK so I waited for it to do its thing and reset. Unfortunately for me – everything wasn’t fine. As a matter of fact, everything I had saved on that cable box had disappeared…it was all gone…forever.

Now, if this was the first time I had issues with my cable company, I would have been upset, but remained calm – and realized that “stuff” happens. The problem is, this is probably the 25th thing that has gone wrong with either my phone, internet connection or cable within the last year. So, I was livid – seeing red and ready to lunge my cable box out of the window and into the street. Fortunately, I didn’t do that.

My husband came in to see what happened. I explained the situation and took the “big girl” approach by stepping back, breathing slowly and counting to ten. At that point, I realized that there was no way I could possibly have acted calm or professionally; therefore, I asked him to make the 250th call to our service provider. Because I married a very calm and level-headed man, he handled the situation with grace – and ended up scoring us a well deserved credit of approximately $145.

Now, if I had picked up the phone it would not have turned out so successfully – for anyone. If I had called, I probably wouldn’t have received a credit at all and I potentially could have ruined the poor service representative’s day by taking out my frustrations on her – even though it wasn’t her fault that my cable box malfunctioned.

So, what I’m hoping to accomplish with this post is this…This holiday season, when you’re stressed out, angry or upset – remember to wait it out – or walk away.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Erika Blanchard
Erika Blanchard is the manager of digital marketing and social media for VIPdesk, a leading provider of Virtual Contact Center, Concierge and Loyalty Program Solutions. She is an experienced marketing and management professional with a passion for customer service and social media who has authored several eBooks and guides on Social Media and Web Apps.

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