PrintAs we begin a fresh new year and the holiday rollercoasters starts to alleviate, let’s take a moment to reflect on the successful retail holiday season we just concluded. We all know the holidays make extraordinarily eventful and sometimes frenetic shopping experiences. However, some retail stores put in the extra effort to ensure the preservation of their happy customers.

For example, I’d like to share a customer experience story that I recently witnessed at an IKEA checkout stand that I found very impactful during the holiday season.

As the customer in front of me was completing his purchase, the clerk asked him if he wanted to purchase a bag for his little odds and ends (small bowls, picture frames, etc.). His facial expression displayed his realization that it was a good idea so they didn’t roll off his giant cart on his way out. After all, the iconic blue bag was only 59 cents. When the clerk handed him a crisp new bag, she hesitated for a second saying she found a rip in the bag. She instantly started reaching for a new bag with her other hand, while apologizing profusely. It turned out to just be a faded spot of color, and the bag itself was not ripped in any way. The customer ended up keeping the initial bag with its unique color pattern. As he walked away, I thought that was a very considerate action, and something I haven’t witnessed in a store for a long time.

When does a store clerk ever pay attention to the bag they give you, let alone offer you a better one? Rarely. Everyone is usually too rushed at that stage in the shopping experience to notice something so miniscule as that — especially during the holidays!

How did Ikea achieve this excellent story of customer satisfaction? They hired a great staff member with charm, a little charisma, most importantly, someone who cares. No surprise they ranked #5 of Forbes.com, “10 Best Companies To Work For Right Now.”

Nordstrom stores are another great example of maintaining positivity since they didn’t open their stores on Thanksgiving, which provided both employees and shoppers the relief of enjoying the time with friends and family. Forbes.com contributor Paula Rosenblum commented, “[Nordstrom] has developed excellent synergies across all the digital and physical places it touches customers. It’s a well-oiled machine for a positive customer experience.”

And finally, the National Retail Federation on thisisretail.org listed some outstanding examples of how a handful of stores provided “9 Ways You Can Give Back with Retailers this Holiday Season”:

1. Macy’s donated $1 for every letter written and submitted into their Santa box.
2. JC Penny’s app allowed shoppers to donate gifts to children and seniors.
3. Toys R’ Us collected unwrapped gifts for Toys for Tots.
4. Sears accepted donations for gift cards to veterans, soldiers and their families.
5. Stop and Shop collected donations to support local food pantries and regional food banks.
6. Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids donated $1 million worth of shoes to kids.
7. Petco accepted dog and cat donations to take to shelters across the US.
8. Walmart donated $1.5 million to 140 organizations.
9. Nordstrom accepted donations for Shoesthatfit.org, and also teamed with New Balance to donate 10,000 shoes to kids in need.

Even during the demanding holiday season, these stores established a place for good old-fashioned “doing the right thing” – ideas that come from the hearts and minds of great retailers by giving-back to their communities and creating wholesome business! In the end, executing these examples with enterprise level discipline and real human service will attract happy customers for 2014 and years to come.

And by the way, I am not affiliated with the retail locations listed above; I’m just a proud advocate for honest and remarkable in-store customer experiences. I am looking forward to experiencing all the new advancements and inspirational innovations that brilliant brick-and-mortars will harvest in 2014.

Happy New Year everyone!

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