Black Friday was like a graduate course in customer service – providing lessons on how to do it well and definitely a primer on what not to do. I usually don’t partake in the madness, but a friend’s desire for that one certain Early Bird Special found me waiting outside in line at 5:45am, and once you’re up, well…

My gold seal goes to Lowe’s and Menard’s. Lowe’s had free donuts, coffee and hot chocolate for the hearty shoppers and randomly gave out free gift cards which reduced our bill by $105! Menard’s knew they would be busy and prepared for it – having all hands on deck to direct traffic to the checkout lines, setting up ad hoc registers to aid in processing and having staff all throughout the store available to help customers locate items in the ad. The parking lot was literally overflowing onto the frontage road but we waited in line less time at Menard’s than any other establishment.

Contrast that with JoAnn’s which had spectacular coupons and one (yes, one) cashier. The line literally was to the back of the store to check out and a similar size line cued up to first have the fabric cut. I did a U-turn as soon as I walked in. The Red Cross blood donation center was reminiscent of JoAnn’s – even though there had been multiple commercials urging people to donate, they had to turn people away due to inadequate staffing to handle any of the influx in volume. Kohl’s, too, had great coupons and literally an hour long wait in line to use them. While they had all their registers open, unlike Menard’s they limited themselves to the existing terminals instead of utilizing customer service, temporary registers or hand-held devices.

While Black Friday may not be the frenzy that it once was, there still was a noticeable uptick in the number of people in the stores. It was an opportunity for retailers not only to make some quick sales but to make an impression on shoppers who may not normally frequent their business. Some stores took this seriously and made it an experience to remember while others did more harm than good.

Spending resources to promote your organization without a proportionate investment in staffing is worse than doing nothing. If you incentivize business, be prepared to conduct it.

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