Avoiding Holiday Shopping Stress

Posted Friday, December 5, 2014 in Customer Experience by Ronni Marshak

It is officially holiday shopping season (although retailers and etailers have been promoting seasonal spending since Labor Day—or so it seems). But now, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are over, and those of us who avoided the lines and slow sites are doing our shopping in earnest.

STRESSFUL SITUATIONS ABOUND. Shopping on deadline can be very stressful (birthdays, anniversaries) because you’re trying to find the perfect gift by the perfect date. The holidays are so much more stressful because you have to find the perfect gifts for a whole list of people, some of whom are incredibly difficult to shop for, and you face hoards of other shoppers who are doing the exact same thing by the same deadline. Okay, so you won’t run into crowds online, but site performance will degrade, and just try getting through to a customer service rep if something goes wrong. Those “we are experiencing a higher call volume than usual—your hold is estimated to be 20 minutes or more” messages will be de rigueur and wait times will double or triple.

TIPS FOR MAKING HOLIDAY SHOPPING A MORE PLEASURABLE EXPERIENCE. So how can you help but go a little bit crazy? Here are some ideas to help ensure that holiday shopping won’t turn you into a Grinch and could actually be enjoyed:

  • Revel in the effort it takes to get a great gift! Just this week, I faced quite a stressful situation. Because I’ve recently moved, I’ve notified a tried and true gift source of my new address. But their systems seem to insist I still live in my old condo in Boston and keep defaulting to that address even when I change it online. Finally, I actually called in an order to make sure it all went well. But, sure enough, although I KNOW I gave the new address (since the associate on the phone kept getting the zip code wrong, and I kept having to correct him), my order of an office chair for my cousin was shipped to my old address.

    In fact, two chairs were shipped (although I only ordered one), and I was told that I had to contact UPS to have them pick them up or I would be charged. Since I don’t know who lives in the condo right now, and I’ve had problems with UPS customer service in the past, I escalated to a manager and insisted on having my money refunded.

    My typical reaction would be to slam the merchant and stop doing business with them, but, in the giving spirit of the holiday, I decided, instead, to forgive them their trespasses and enjoy telling the story. I’ve gotten great laughs over the situation at a number of gatherings already. And the gift of the chair now has a wonderful paper trail of online chat sessions, emails, and anecdotes. I think my cousin will appreciate my efforts even more than he’ll like the chair.

    So enjoy the ultimate success of overcoming a bad customer experience, and feel proud that, in spite of all the obstacles that holiday shopping can throw in your path, you conquered and have great gifts for all your loved ones!

  • Turn finding the right gift into a scavenger hunt. A family member and I have decided to go in together on gifts for the rest of the family. And we’ve turned it into a challenge. We’ve decided on a type or category of gift for a specific recipient and a price point (although we haven’t specified exact items), and we each are shopping, both in stores and online, for the perfect gift for each family member. We contact the other when we find something great, sending links and smart phone photos, but we don’t buy it yet—we put in on hold or in a wish list until we both decide it’s the best idea. Then one of us purchases it. We are keeping score on who finds the best stuff! The winner has bragging rights for the year.

  • Get to know your sales associates and customer service reps. Although sales and service reps are extremely busy—actually, because they are extremely busy—they will value being treated as human beings. As an associate is walking you to a display of electronics, ask her how her holiday shopping is going and how is she going to spend the holidays. Be patient with your contact center CSR, commiserate with how stressed he must be dealing with angry customers, and try to share a laugh. Not only will you find them just that much more helpful, but you’ll feel good about yourself. And you might just reap another benefit. When ordering the desk chair (before the wrong address/duplicate order came to light), the phone sales rep was so apologetic that he couldn’t get my zip code correct. I just laughed and told him that 02324 is a very difficult zip code, so he shouldn’t worry. After the shared joke, he gave me a significant discount on the chair assembly package that I ordered. Saved me some bucks and made a friend!

  • Share your stories with recipients, fellow shoppers, and with us. As I mentioned, I have shared my chair delivery horror story at several gatherings, always to great jokes and gentle teasing. And I’ve heard some great shopping horror stories in response. Just look at every stressful holiday shopping experience as something you can write in your memoirs, post in our customers.com discussion forum—or that you can send to us, and we’ll post it for you in our Forum! We look forward to your stories.

Have a wonderful and stress-free shopping season!


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