As a veteran of numerous Black Fridays, I have come to expect certain things. What I did not expect was for a recent trip to Jimmy John’s to highlight the most important features of the retail store customer experience – the deciding factor in customers’ minds, and the key to a successful sales day.

As price matching becomes increasingly prevalent, sales are posted in advance, and interconnected media immediately shares shopping information, the experience of the customer is going to play a key role in where customers go first, and where they shop throughout the day. The key to the day is not only who has the best exact price, but also who provides the store customers want to visit.

“Welcome to Jimmy John’s.” 

Being greeted as you enter a store can be one of the most powerful and underrated experiences among brick and mortar retailers. However, justifying the labor expense of an employee who is not operationally productive has become increasingly unpopular as expense control became a key factor through tough retail seasons.

Have a greeter. Have a person dedicated to educating customers on where departments and key items are located, who provides customers with a fixed point they know they can come to for assistance or questions. For big box and small stores alike, there is a direct correlation between time spent at the entrances (inside or outside) with customer satisfaction and a safe, controlled store opening.

“We’re out of sprouts” 

Upon asking for one of my favorite condiments, I was immediately told they were out of stock, and where the other options were. Customers usually pick their first store to visit with a goal of obtaining certain items; retailers can either drive that into an outstanding experience, or prevent a negative one with timely and accurate information that values the customer’s time.

Spread the word on out of stocks and provide other options. If you have mobile capability – handhelds, iPads, smartphones, etc. – there should be information on store inventory levels and on-demand access to cross channel availability. If the customer wants to know where the advertised pirate ship is, any associate should be able to tell them the in-store location, quantities remaining, online availability and fulfillment options. Utilizing and disseminating inventory information quickly and accurately can turn a good sales day for your company into a great one.

“Here’s your sandwich” – “I haven’t finished the order yet.” 

While I have heard, and experienced Jimmy John’s claims of being “freaky fast,” I am still always surprised by their efficiency, and this time was no different. As the cashier was telling me my total, an employee handed me my completed sandwich. Now that’s a checkout.

Have a faster checkout than your competition. One of the key in-line talking points of both customers and media outlets will be the “time in line.” As retailers are increasingly offering to match prices, what you’re buying and how much you are paying for it is becoming less important than “where can I get it the fastest?” Especially for shoppers who choose to shop Black Friday morning and throughout the day, and as holiday shoppers become more frantic with less time, having the word spread that you are the fastest retailer in the area can send extra shoppers your way.

“Thanks for stopping in” 

I’d already had a great experience, but it really means something to have a store associate genuinely say “thank you.” It’s the tacit admission that I, as a consumer, had a choice – and the business is thanking me for choosing them.

Thank every customer. Whether this customer is a life long shopper or shopping with you for the first time, your cashiers and greeters have the biggest opportunity to close the loop and drive return business for the holiday season. You will be stressed. Your associates will be stressed. But make this one of the key things that gets nailed for each and every customer, and it will pay for itself in spades.

Black Friday is arguably the most important sales day of the year, not just for the numbers, but for the association a retailer can garner and hold, customers turned into repeat customers, and a focus on customer experience that will drive your associate’s actions in even the most stressful times. Nail these 4 things:
• Have a greeter
• Spread the word on out of stocks and provide other options
• Have a faster checkout than the nearby competition
• Thank every customer

If you can successfully execute these principles on Black Friday, you will have paved the path for an outstanding holiday season.

 – Chris