On Friday, we entered the annual period of shopping frenzy we paint the color “black.” According to Wikipedia, the name of the day started in Philadelphia in the early 60’s and was chosen to characterize the traffic—both vehicle and pedestrian—that crowded the streets hunting for deals the day after Thanksgiving. It is also used to refer to the fact that many retailers make about 40% of their annual revenue (putting them “in the black”) in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Today, the competition for customers is as tough as an NFL football game. Brick and mortar stores are competing with Internet sales (with its wider choices and no parking advantage). So, stores lure in customers with a perpetual reminder of the diminishing number of shopping days and the dwindling supply of the good stuff. Some retailers started their siren’s call by pushing “blackness” to Thursday.
Holiday shopping can be fun, especially at those stores that respect customers all year long. Here are some gentle reminders to retailers to follow, not just between now and Christmas, but all year long:
Don’t cheat. Tricking customers into thinking they are getting a great deal that is not a deal at all may win you the transaction, but cost you the relationship the rest of the year.
Be kind. Treating customers with respect and consideration, no matter their aggression and obvious greed, will help calm discord and prevent conflict.
Trust customers. The service greats like Zappos and Nordstrom capture customer loyalty by assuming honesty and taking the high ground.
Value employees. Provide more than normal affirmation and assistance. Front-line employees get a bullet-proof emotional vest when they are treated like valued partners.
Provide extras. Generosity is the nature of the holiday season. Avoid greedy, miserly practices and find ways to provide extra smiles, extra patience and extra support.
Be humble. Customers don’t expect you to be perfect; but they do expect you to care when things go wrong. Apologize sincerely, empathize and resolve issues in a hurry.
Be grateful. Customers can drive you out of business just by taking their business elsewhere. Never take them for granted. Be quick to thank them for the business.