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The 12 Days of Customer Service

I love the holidays.

I love that time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day when things seem to slow down a little. When folks seem to smile a little easier and everyone is just a little bit nicer.

 This is a magical time of year, and for me, it is a lesson in courtesy and service.

Just last night I was in the drive through of a local fast food establishment when I pulled up and the cashier told me the car in front of me had paid for my order. How fun is that?

So I paid for the two cars behind me and watched the face of the Associate light up.

“I love this time of year,” she said.

I always felt like if we could bottle this spirit, we’d never want for amazing service. So what follows is a riff on the iconic “Twelve Days of Christmas” in the form of:

Purple Ornament 2000


  1. The center of our world must be our Guest. Much as we mention the partridge in that pear tree twelve times in the song, our Customers must be our constant refrain. When we put the Guest at the center of everything we do, fantastic thing are possible. We must never forget that.

  2. The spirit of service must inspire us daily. This time of year it is easy to feel great about going to work and wishing Guests well; but, how can you scale that the other 300 days of the year? Figure that out and you’ve got amazing service in your back pocket.

  3. There is no substitute for understanding our Guests. If you can empathize with your Customer and really crawl around inside their heads, you’ll be ready to meet (and exceed) their expectations. Most folks lament that those who serve them don’t understand their needs – you can set yourself apart here very easily.

  4. Keep a close eye out for Guests who need help. During the holidays we all have a blank stare when shopping that smacks of too much eggnog and a mistletoe hangover. Keep an eye out for those who look lost and help them find what they need.

  5. The golden rule is great – but treat everyone how they would like to be treated. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care how the guy serving me likes to be treated – but I sure know what I want. If you can look at things from the Guest’s point-of-view and find a way to treat them how they would like to be treated, you’ll earn a Customer for life.

  6. Every Guest comes with their own set of needs and expectations. When we understand that everyone has a need or want to be met, we can serve them more effectively. During the holidays everyone is looking to finalize their shopping but also to bring joy to those in their lives. It could be anything from the obligatory “boss gift” to something for their new spouse on their first Christmas. Help them feel great about achieving their goal.

  7. Time is the currency of the day. We are all busy – and the holidays feel like any other time of the year after 10 cups of coffee. Time is something that each person has a finite amount of – so maximizing each minute is something we all seek. Remember each day to help your Guests make the most of their time, and you’ll find that they return long after the light-up reindeer are packed away in the garage.

  8. A little WOW goes a long way. This time of year is all about the wonder of the season – keep that excitement in your heart all year long. You’ve heard me rail against the grand gesture often, but sometimes you have to swing for the fences. The holidays remind me that it’s okay to shoot for the WOW sometimes so that you can absolutely amaze your Customers. When I see those grand Christmas displays in the stores for the first time after Thanksgiving, I am always excited for the holidays.

  9. Expertise is always in season. When mom and dad are out shopping for little Johnny’s new laptop or game console, they have the look toddlers give parents when they pretend to pull a quarter from their ears. During the holidays folks shop outside their comfort zones, which is a great reminder that often Customer have no ideas what they need. They are looking to those who are serving them to be experts in their field. This is even more reason to be sure that when we hire new folks, we are sure to train them well before they meet Guests.

  10. Gratitude feels amazing. I always love watching children open presents – not teenagers, they are moody things that rarely show genuine gratitude. But children aged 2-10 who understand Christmas and really wanted a certain thing are a delight to watch. I watched my nieces open early Christmas presents last week and it reminded me what real gratitude looks like. Let’s be sure to keep that feeling close at hand during the remainder of the year and thank our Guests when they reward us with their business.

  11. When in doubt, smile. I firmly believe that folks smile more during the holidays. Family nonsense is forgotten and retailers seem to appreciate their Customers more than usual. Small wonder since they find their profitability during the holiday season. But all that aside, we should smile more after the New Year’s ball drops. There is compelling data that it can make us feel better and it makes us look friendlier in the eyes of our Guests.

  12. Don’t be a hero. The holidays are so busy for retailers across the globe that asking for help is an absolute necessity - especially as short staffed as many places are right now. Often folks view asking coworkers (or their leaders) for help as a sign of weakness. That is sophomoric thinking that must be abandoned. If you are in the weeds, you have to ask for assistance for the good of your Guests. And Leaders, don’t ever make your team feel weak for having been heroic enough to ask for a helping hand.

So those are my twelve lessons from the holidays.

I know there were no lords a leapin’ or ladies dancing, but there is a spirt that can drive satisfaction for our Guests and profitability for our businesses long after the snow melts.

So take a page out of jolly old St. Nick’s book and treat everyone like cherished Friends.

Tony Johnson, CCXP

Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant 606.356.7447 FREE RESOURCES AND TRAINING TOOLS WEB - TWITTER - FACEBOOK - YOUTUBE - INSTAGRAM

Improve Your Customer Service with my Book: TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Team Click to Purchase on


Tony Johnson is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.


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