04/01/2013 15:13 GMT | Updated 06/03/2013 05:12 GMT

Great Bargain, Shame About the Customer Service

During sales, good customer service normally goes straight down the pan. As thousands of shoppers storm stores looking for bargains, shop assistants and front end colleagues normally look harassed, tired and generally fed up. Take the example of one of our associates Karen who recently went to return an item to a store.

Karen arrived at the store four minutes before they were due to close, and was met at the door by a security guard, and a manager who informed her that she would not be allowed in. Once Karen pointed out the time, the security guard let her in, but muttered something nasty under his breath, and gave her malicious look as he exited the store.

Fortunately, not everyone has to endure the same amount of rudeness that Karen did, but why do customer service standards slip during sales? And why should shops work extra hard to ensure that they don't? Boxing Day sales figures were up a massive 21.6% in 2012. Police were drafted in to the Trafford Centre in Manchester to control the 20,000 people who had arrived on Boxing Day by 8am, and the scenario was repeated up and down the country. Having to deal with the sheer volume of people in shops at any one time is enough to test the patience of a saint. Yet, there is still a huge need for store teams to give service with a smile, and to be calm.

Customer service is the lifeblood of every business. With consumers having so much choice, it is important for all business owners to treat their customers well. Good customer service breeds loyalty, and that goes far beyond a bargain at a sale. Loyal customers will come back to you again and again. The sales are an ideal time to win new customers and turn them in to loyal customers because the sale prices will attract them in. Your brand experience as well as your prices will keep them coming back.

Americans have mastered customer service to a tee. They recognise the value of the customer, and they work hard to keep them, and sometimes address them as "Ma'am" and "Sir". In my opinion, we should take note of this, and work hard to implement similar strategies, regardless of the conditions. Starbucks went as far as learning the names of their customers in a bid to create loyalty. Sure, it's not everyone's preferred option, but it is a great sentiment. When you make a customer feel good, they feel good about your brand. Below are five ways that retailers can make a customer feel valuable, in the midst of sales seasons.

1. Smile. Smiling is infectious. If retail teams are smiling, it makes the customer feel good. No one likes interacting with upset people.

2. Manage queues effectively. Shop sales mean that queues for the checkout will be significantly longer. Effective queue management will stop customers feeling frustrated, and will reduce queue jumping disagreements.

3. Listen to your customers. Yes, you may have five different customers trying to talk to you at once, but is important to treat customers as individuals, and answer each query singularly.

4. Be patient.

5. Tidy up. With items flying off the shelf at an astounding rate, it can be hard to keep shops looking neat all the time, but it is certainly worth making the effort. A tidy shop is a big part of the customer experience. Give people a reason to want to come back.

Great customer service costs nothing, it is a state of mind and it comes from business leaders setting their stall out to make it "what's expected" in their organisation. Customers don't always remember the logo above the door, they always remember the person who served them and will keep coming back if the service is great!