Customer Service Tips for Customers: Helping the Helpers Help You

Most customer service tips are designed for the service providers. In this article, we change the perspective, as many of our readers are also Black Friday shoppers and gift givers. This article provides some tips for enjoying the day and helping customer service specialists help you most effectively.

Decide Why You Are Going

There are lots of reasons people go out into the shopping world on Black Friday, and not all of them have to do with getting the best deals possible or getting that popular doll before they all jump off the shelf.  So, before you go, take a few moments to consider your primary motivators. Understanding the “why” beneath your trip can help you manage yourself and engage others.

Reasons to go out on Black Friday:

  • Enjoy the start of the season and being around people! Many people are feeling more comfortable around others as a sense of normality has started to return. Some may go out for Black Friday just for the experience. Remember this if you run into a stressed customer service representative – you may be able to help, just with a smile.
  • Connect with friends and family. Shopping can offer a focal reason to get together – a shared activity that links being together with a secondary purpose. In this case, know what you absolutely must achieve for the shopping element, and then enjoy the rest.
  • Shop with intention. Some people really do use Black Friday to find the best deals and either start or complete a list. If this is you, doing some preparation will help maximize your effectiveness and may help lower your stress level and that of those around you.  Shop with purpose – and be prepared to flex if conditions call for it.

Conduct an Advance Assessment

A lot has changed over the past two years – priorities have changed for many people, and inflation is making everyone more aware of pocketbook challenges.  This makes it a good time to check in with the family members, friends and other loved ones that you often exchange gifts with. It may be that the time has passed for gifts, and others would rather just have a shared experience with you, a homemade treat or a small gift card.

You can start off the conversation by sharing that your own perspective on life has changed, and that you are reassessing old habits.  Given that you and the other person typically exchange gifts over the holidays, you wanted to check in to see how the other person is feeling about those exchanges – and that you are open to exploring other ways of expressing your care for each other.


You could start the conversation by being honest – “I love that we both give each other something around the holidays to show our love or friendship. I also know it is a stressful time of year for all of us – I wonder if it would help us to have a conversation about holiday gifts this year.”

This often goes in one of three ways:

  • The other person agrees easily and asks for or offers a suggestion – like a shared meal, a gift to charity in lieu of a gift or something homemade, like your special cookies.
  • The other person suggests going all in and giving up gifts entirely.
  • The other person cuts off the discussion, insisting that gifts are a special part of the holidays and they intend to continue it.

If gifts seem inevitable in a relationship, then at least try to engage in a conversation about what you and the other person might want. Ask the other person if there is something special they would appreciate, and make your wants known too.  At this point in the relationship, you likely have a sense of the kind of gift the other person might want, or at least the standard “price point” you have mutually reached over time.  Offer some suggestions for them, and even for yourself – this can be subtle, but also impactful.

This approach may seem a bit calculated at first, but most people are a bit relieved when they find out what somebody really wants, rather than struggling to guess what the other person most needs or would appreciate.  And with today’s financial landscape, receiving a gift just to re-gift it serves no one.

This tip has cumulative effects – if everyone were more open with what they would appreciate, it might make Black Friday easier for all of us.

Decide What Customer Service Help You May Need

Planning and “pre-game” conversations help both you and Customer Service Specialists.  Once you have a plan and list in place, you are better able to focus your searches and questions. Most Customer Service specialists appreciate this, because it helps them help you in a pragmatic and timely way.  Here are examples of the type of help you might need

  • Asking for help in finding a specific model for a device or gadget, or the right color and size for a piece of clothing. This is way more helpful than asking a customer service representative what they think your aunt might like!
  • If you really are stumped about a gift, you can ask what a popular gift seems to be, within a certain price zone or gift category, or for a specific type of person (older male who likes the outdoors; young woman who likes to experiment in the kitchen). This is more open-ended than asking about a specific model or size but asks the question in a way that a representative can answer – rather than them trying to guess what Uncle Julio may enjoy.
  • Know what your alternatives might be before you walk in, so you know how best a customer service representative might help you. Do you have a substitute item in mind if your initial choice is not available?  Do you need to ask someone to help you backorder, or to determine if an item is available online or at another store?  Knowing your sources of flexibility will help you ask about options, rather than just being frustrated if your first choice isn’t there.

It’s also OK to politely decline help when offered – “I think I am OK on my own today” – is perfectly fine to say – or – “I’ll find you if I need help.”  This way, the customer service representative doesn’t need to keep checking in as you wander the aisles.  If you are in a good place, you could also consider saying something supportive or kind to the representatives you meet – like thanking them for being available.  If they do help, let them know you appreciate it.

Keep Your Cool

So, you decide to go out on Black Friday – and it is more chaotic and stressful than you expected.  Prices are up, inventory is down, your companion is pushing your buttons and where did all these people come from?!?  Here are some tips for managing stress when things feel out of control.

  • Notice how you are feeling – Regularly checking in with yourself during the day will help you assess how you are doing, which can help you manage your emotions in the moment.
  • Breathe and seek a quiet place – a few deep breaths can help you get centered. Find a store or corner that seems less busy than others and take a few minutes of calm. Consider listening to soothing music on your phone if you brought earbuds with you.  (This is also a lovely gift idea for others.)
  • Just walk a bit – set your list aside, and walk up and down store aisles, sidewalks, or mall hallways. A steady pace will help clear your head and allow you to refocus. And you’ll get your steps in too!
  • Change your goals. You may have walked in with a plan but know when it is time to regroup and readjust. It could be that ordering online is easier, or that you need to reconsider certain gifts given price and availability. Having a plan, with alternative options, before you go in may help you adjust when the stress hits.
  • Drink some water. Your body needs water to function well – especially when there is a lot going on. Carry a water bottle and recharge as needed. Like breathing and walking, stopping to drink water can also help you recenter if done mindfully.

Assessing and evaluating your stress levels and taking small steps quickly to adjust can help recalibrate and realign. Want to develop some skills in advance?  Watch Pryor’s online video on Managing Stress or consider our seminar Stop Overthinking and Eliminate Decision Fatigue. These learning options include tips for work and may help on days like Black Friday!

Black Friday is often the symbolic kickoff to the longer holiday season – a season that can hold stress, joy, frustration, and love.  Being a better customer helps the customer service representatives who are there to help you – and THAT is a tip that can last all year long.