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How to Deliver Better Customer Service During the Busy Holiday Season

It’s holiday time! What a joyous time of year!

And, then there is the holiday shopping experience… This is how I see it. I get in my car. About a mile from the mall I begin to experience heavier-than-usual traffic. Not just a little heavier, but sometimes it seems like worse than rush hour. Is there an accident? No, there’s a traffic jam at the mall. Once I’m at the mall, I experience the search for the parking spot. Then there’s the crowded stores, the lines to check out, and then the reverse commute to get home.

Now, I’m not a curmudgeon who throws out the words, “Bah Humbug!” around the holidays. I really do love the holidays; I just don’t like going to the mall during the holidays. Yes, Amazon and other online retailers are my salvation.

All of this is a set-up for the lesson. Stressful times for customers means stressful times for employees. They must be more empathetic and patient as the stress of the holiday shopping experience causes customers to behave in abnormally strange – often referred to as rude – ways.

So, what is an employee to do? How should they handle these customers? What’s the secret to making it through the busy season with tact and diplomacy? In reality, it doesn’t matter if it’s the holiday season. It could be any busy overly busy time for your business.

Here are four ways that companies and individuals can manage the busiest and most stressful times…

  1. Hire Right: As an employer, hire the right people, to begin with. If you are going to be hiring new people, realize there are people who love stressful customer situations. They thrive on it. They are resilient and love the drama. Yet they seem to be masters at “calming the storm.” If you plan to put people into positions of stress, be sure that you hire a personality that can deal with it.
  2. Staff to Meet the Demand: This is obvious. Staff properly. If you’re a retailer, you know that holidays are busier than the rest of the year. So, plan for it. Same goes for any business that has predictably higher-than-usual volume than any other time of year.
  3. Don’t Take It Personally: A customer who’s experiencing stress, inside or outside of your business, may take it out on you (or one of your employees). Don’t take it personally. If you are truly customer-focused and are doing everything right, then it’s not your fault the customer is having a bad day. But, it’s your opportunity to start to turn that bad day around. While you don’t take it personally, you do own it and do your best to deliver an experience that is frictionless and stress-free.
  4. Let Good People Do the Job They Were Hired to Do: If you’ve hired good people, let them do their job. Don’t make them go to a manager to get approval for things they know will get approved. This causes stress for everyone; the employee who is uncomfortable bothering the manager, the manager who is going to approve the request anyway, and the customer who is forced to wait.

The holidays are intended to be a joyous time of year, filled with spending time with friends and family. This can also be the season that causes the most stress. As a retailer of any kind, be aware of this and go above and beyond at this time of year to make things easier for the customer. If you can please a customer during the busy times, which is hard to do, it’s likely that this same customer will be more likely to shop with you the rest of the year as well.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote 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 © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Great basic, simple tips. Don’t over-complicate what’s necessary. Hire right, hire enough, understand that the customers may be stressed (contributing to a less than desirable interaction), and let the team do what they do.

    One extra thing I may add is awareness and a reminder meeting prior to these busy times if you’re able. Just a quick 5-10 minutes to say exactly what you mentioned here. “Don’t take it personal”, “Keep delivering an excellent experience”, “Be prepared”.

    Nice article. Quick. To the point. Thanks!

    • YES! Always a team meeting on a regular basis – even daily before the doors open or the shift begins, is an excellent idea. Here’s to a busy and successful holiday season!

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