Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Five Customer Service Tips to Prepare for Holiday Rush

Customer Service Tips

I’m writing this the day after Thanksgiving, also known in the retail world as Black Friday. This is one of the busiest, if not the busiest, shopping day of the year.  I observed a number of sales people and customers in the stores at a very busy shopping mall. Here’s what I noticed.

By the way, even if you’re not a retailer, there are still some lessons here.  Every business will have busier times than others. It doesn’t have to be because of a holiday rush.  It can be after a trade show or seasonal.  Now, back to Black Friday.

Customers were divided. Some were enjoying the experience of looking for sale items for themselves or for holiday gifts for friends and loved ones.  Others seemed to be anything but casually shopping.  They appeared to be on a mission.  It was either for a particular item or store, or it was to get the best deals they could get on Black Friday.  All of the customers had one thing in common: they were going to encounter busy stores, long lines and overworked sales people.

The sales people were busy – very busy.  In some cases, almost too busy.

Some stores were busier than others, and of course, the check-out lines were longer than usual.  This was testing the patience of some of the customers.

As a business, we must be prepared for these busier times. If we work hard to create a customer focused brand, we can’t let the holiday rush, the extended hours and demanding customers erode what we’ve worked for.  No, if anything we need to up our game and deliver an even better level of service. First for our existing customers, and second because new customers will find their way into our stores, and if you want them back, then the customer service experience had better be amazing.

So, how can we do it?  Here are five simple and common sense strategies. This isn’t really new as much as they are important reminders.

  1. Make sure you are staffed well.  Wait times for the customer shouldn’t be too different than other busy times.  Sales people must be available.  If the customer feels they are waiting too long, or they see a long line, they may get frustrated and leave.
  2. Train the staff for the busy times.  Prepare them.  Give them some tips on how to deal with more than one customer at a time.  Expect it will be busy.
  3. Motivate them. If ever there was a time for a team meeting before you opened every day, this is the time. Get employees excited about the prospect of breaking sales numbers, but delivering great service along the way.  Talk about what happened the day before and plan to repeat the good and avoid the bad.
  4. Have a contest of some kind.  Make the day fun.
  5. Model the right behavior. Treat the employees the way you want your customers treated, and expect everyone else to do the same.

Okay, it’s holiday time!  Let’s get to work – and have an amazing holiday!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times           bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Great post, Shep! Between your ideas for retailers, and the list of ideas for customers you helped compile (, I think we’d all enjoy the holiday season a bit more.

    Your first two tips really stood out for me. Without enough staff or training, both employees and customers get overwhelmed by the crowds. On the other hand, I went to several stores this weekend (Sur La Table, Crate & Barrel, Lego Store come to mind) where there were plenty of cheerful people on hand to help me make my selections and ring me up quickly when I was done shopping. Such a nice experience despite the crowds!

  2. Jeff, thank you for your comment. Between both of our posts, we have the customer and retailer sides covered! You shop at some great stores. Your customer experience is what every retailer should hope to deliver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>