Besides getting the very best prices this Black Friday, here's something else you should be looking out for: good customer service. With retailers competing so closely in terms of price points, it might be customer service that tips the balance on a particular purchase.
And we've got some stats to back up the importance of customer service as well: UK figures from The Institute of Customer Service suggest that customers who are treated well with "excellent" customer service can spend up to £53 (around $65) more at a particular retailer, on average.
"Nine out of ten people who received 'excellent' service during Black Friday shopped with that retailer again, 37% more than those who received 'okay' service," says Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, highlighting what's at stake for businesses.
In total, 'excellent' customer service on Black Friday potentially leads to around £1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) in sales the year after, as shoppers return to retailers that treat them well. That's quite a return on smiling, treating customers politely, and trying to anticipate their needs.
How to find excellent customer service
So as a savvy shopper, how do you go about finding the online retailers and high street stores where you're going to be treated like the valuable customer you are? Previous experience plays a big part of course – if you've had a good experience in the past, you can go back to the tried and trusted places.
Often a retailer's attitude towards customer service can be seen on a website landing page, or on a storefront – besides the prices (which are obviously important), is there any mention of a customer commitment? Any offers to help you find what you're after? Any guarantee of a particular level of service?
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If you want to be a bit more of a detective about it, check out the social media channels associated with a particular store. See if customer complaints and enquiries are dealt with promptly, if they're dealt with at all – how a business responds to its customers on social media is a good indicator of how you're going to get treated.
Don't be afraid to ask family and friends for advice: by the time you've gone all the way around your social circle, you should have a pretty good idea of which retailers treat their customers like royalty and which ones treat their customers like peasants. Adjust your shopping habits accordingly.
How to avoid bad customer service
Bad customer service can leave a rotten taste in the mouth, even if you've managed to bag yourself a Black Friday bargain at the same time. There's no guaranteed way of avoiding bad customer service, but first impressions usually count: if you're not impressed with an initial encounter online or in store, don't be afraid to take your business elsewhere.
You can quickly find customer reviews of businesses in many different places on the web, too – try looking on Google Maps for reviews of stores in your area, for example, or TrustPilot for reviews of just about every company out there. If you delve into product reviews on a site, meanwhile, you'll often find comments on the quality of the site's customer service as well.
Check out the advertising that a business invests in as well – this will often be a good indicator of the attitude of a retailer and the attitude that you can expect when you walk into a shop or try and get hold of a customer service agent online. If you're looking hard enough, almost every aspect of the way a business is run gives you at least some indication of whether the customer service will be good or bad.
If you're absolutely determined to avoid bad customer service this Black Friday, stick to the trusted and well-known names – we've had plenty of dealings with the likes of Currys, Argos, Amazon and John Lewis, and know from years of experience that you're going to be well looked after if you deal with them, even in the madness that is Black Friday.