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The Best & Worst of Holiday Shopping 2015


Now that it’s behind us, I’ve had some time to reflect on the “best & worst” of this season’s holiday shopping, both from a personal and news making perspective.

The Best

  • Amazon – enough said. This online giant continues to impress. Not only are they rock solid with their delivery, especially for Prime Members, but they did a couple of other things to impress this season. Maybe I was in the dark on this, but a couple of items I purchased offered a free ONE day delivery as opposed to two. What I thought was already great was just made better. I also liked that the site was very clear with items that may not arrive by Christmas, to give customers an option to select something else on their shopping list. Way to go, Amazon!

  • Kohl’s and the long, yet streamlined, lines: my early start to shopping did not yield a stressfree week leading up to Christmas. It appeared, after checking my list, I forgot a few things. And it was December 22nd. I went to Kohl’s that evening, dreading what was sure to be a long wait to get out of there. I was pleasantly surprised though – they seem to have enhanced their lines for the registers. When I stepped into line, it seemed to be never ending, and I settled in for the wait. However, it moved very quickly, and I was out the door in record time, but not before I was hit with yet another surprise. At the register, the cashier asked if I brought the flyer I should have received with the “secret” discount, revealed at the time of purchase. I completely forgot to bring it with me, yet the cashier was kind enough to give the highest percentage off my purchase. What a nice surprise!

The Worst

Poor FedEx: while I did not experience this personally, this news item was making the rounds on Christmas Eve. With many customers making last minute purchases, coupled with the extreme weather we saw in parts of the US, the company could not deliver on time, and many customers did not receive their packages before Christmas. It looks like social media blew up as well, with many unhappy customers.




To make things right, FedEx opened its pickup centers on Christmas Day from 9am to 1pm, and several employees volunteered to work on Christmas Day to get packages delivered. It sounds like things were on schedule until the perfect storm (partially literally) hit the company.


The Ugly

Oh Toys R Us, if nothing else, you’re honest: I rarely shop at Toys R Us anymore, partially because my kids are older and partially because I don’t always have great experiences with them. I did, however, place an online order with them. I received the email confirmation okay, but a few days later, when I went to check the status of my order online, I saw a note that there was a problem with my order and to contact customer service.


First of all, why was this not mentioned in the confirmation email? Or a separate email? Had I not looked, I may not have noticed there was an issue.


So I call the customer service number and am quickly met with a recorded message saying that, due to the holiday season, callers may experience a longer than usual wait. No problem – I totally get it. I put the phone on speaker, put it down, and continue with what I’m doing while I wait. No big deal.


A few moments later, the recording is back, now saying that wait times may be in excess of 45 minutes. 45 minutes! Sounds like the company needs some additional staffing during the holidays. I did wait for 47 minutes, but somewhere at the 35 minute mark I noticed that live chat was available on the TRU website and used that. I did not end the call during this time just in case my issue was not resolved during the chat. It was, and all was well. Had I had more time that day, I would have remained on the line just to see how long it would eventually take. But I didn’t have time, and figured I would free up my wait to help another customer who was patiently waiting.


Those were the highlights of my holiday shopping this year. What about yours? Did you have any great, or not so great, shopping moments? Please feel free to share in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!


Enhance Your Mystery Shopping Program in 2016


With a new year fast approaching, taking a good look at your current mystery shopping program is important, especially if you’ve had the same program for some time. Here are some ideas for sprucing up your program in 2016:


    • Is it time to raise the bar? Hopefully you’ve been watching your company’s performance over time and seen some improvement. If so, that’s great! If you’re finding that your performance scores are consistently coming in exceptionally high, it might be time to raise the bar, especially if your program is in its second or third year. When programs start, especially when a formal mystery shopping program has not been in place before, the program touches on the most basic customer service expectations to ensure that service levels are consistent. Over time, changes take place based on the mystery shopping reports, and things improve. Now it may be time to take it to the next level – incorporate some of the “higher level” performance behaviors. For example, incorporate scenarios to ensure that staff are providing correct information to customers. Pinpointing common customer questions or concerns can give companies “scenarios” for mystery shoppers to use while conducting shops.


    • Don’t focus solely on brick and mortar: onsite shops are vital, but don’t forget about your website or even telephone interactions – those are equally important in the customer journey and should not be overlooked. If you’re not using mystery shopping for these touch points, 2016 is a good time to start.


    • Social media mystery shops: social media customer service has become commonplace; because of the speed with which social media travels, ensuring that staff respond in a timely and accurate manner is important. This is an emerging tool for companies, and utilizing mystery shopping to ensure service levels are strong can be useful.


    • Look to additional services to supplement your mystery shopping program: mystery shopping touches on the objective aspects of service. If you’re not using the more subjective tools, such as customer feedback or social media monitoring, you may be missing a piece of the puzzle. Another emerging tool is Quality Call Monitoring. This service allows for evaluation of actual customer service calls. The calls are evaluated using a report similar to a mystery shopping program and can be extremely useful in evaluating “real life” situations.


Customer service expectations have grown significantly in the last two years; ensuring that you have the tools in place to monitor, measure, and evaluate your company’s performance is vital. With a new year on its way, it’s a great time to re-evaluate and enhance your company’s customer experience measurement programs.