By Katie Griffiths

Black Friday chaos: How to regain customer confidence in a retail crisis

The Black Friday sales got their name from the one day of the year when retailers traditionally went “into the black” with stonking profits.

But right about now, it may be more likely to sum up the dark mood of certain retailers who have been dragged into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

A damning Which? report has pointed out that some so-called discount items aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

So customers who previously camped overnight to save a few quid will now be asking themselves “Are the best Black Friday deals really deals?” and “Where can you find the best deals on Black Friday?”

Losing customer trust is not something retailers can afford to do at any time.

But with brands vying to show they’re offering the best deals on Black Friday, this shot across the bows of some major stores has the potential to really hurt them at the tills.

With the consumer champion sending out a strong message of “Bargain hunters beware”, what can companies named and shamed in this Which? report do to win back customers and show their Black Friday deals are not fake Black Friday deals?

In cases such as this, where trust is seriously eroded, retail crisis management really comes into play.

Face the problem

Review what has caused this loss in customer confidence. Keep an open mind and be ready to admit where you may have gone wrong, or where shoppers could feel justifiably cheated.

In this case, Which? discovered during Black Friday 2015 that 12% of the deals were more expensive than they had been in the three months leading up to the event - and in the two months that followed, 38% could have been found at a lower price.

This amounted to only half of products being cheaper on Black Friday.

Which? tracked 178 deals on 20 types of products - and alleged "numerous" examples of Government guidelines being broken by two retailers inflating the "was" price on products to make deals look more attractive – something both companies have vigorously denied.

Acknowledge the issue

Indicate you understand there is a problem and that your brand is firmly focused on fixing it.

In the case of our Black Friday example, denials by brands, who insist they still have the best deals around, will not pass muster with savvy consumers.

Shoppers want reassurance they won’t be hit with more examples of Black Friday fake deals. A failure to even acknowledge the problem – or an insistence that no laws have been broken - will give rise to suspicions the retailer is going to continue with bad Black Friday practices.

Any crisis management team will tell you that denial is not your friend in a situation such as this.

Find a transparent solution

Be open and honest and offer the consumer the best deal.

In short, make it right – and then some.

For example, Which? is urging Black Friday shoppers to look for price promises, so they can get a refund if their product drops in value in the weeks after a purchase.

Those who stand accused of offering Black Friday fake deals should implement this – or make their current price promises clearer and more enticing.

The bottom line should be a commitment that the customer will not find their item discounted further before Christmas.

Keep everyone ‘on message’

Staff are likely to be facing tricky questions from disgruntled customers, so make sure everyone is briefed on how to handle this professionally and without getting rattled.

Give out the same message, pointing to the things you have done to rectify the problem.

Arm staff with special offers or discounts for shoppers who may feel they have been burned in the past.

In the case of our misleading Black Friday sales, responding with something along the lines of a Black Friday discount guide, with a guarantee that offers cannot be beaten by competitors, would be a great start.

Engage with customers

A retail crisis management plan may get you through the eye of the storm intact.

But only a robust system of seeking customer feedback will help you learn and ensure you don’t encounter the same trouble again.

Discover what customers found most upsetting about the crisis, and which aspects of your response were satisfactory – or what else they may be looking for.

Thank them for their continued custom, and assure them you are listening and learning from your mistake.


If you need help with crisis communications call 0800 612 9890.