As customers and clients prepare for time off and holiday celebrations, you may find yourself knee-deep in the endless tasks of preparing your small business for the season. While you’re ordering extra supplies, planning events, amping up your marketing strategies, and closing out the year, it’s easy to let customer service slip.
So how do you keep up your customer satisfaction during the most important time of the year?
- Start early. As in, right now. It’s best to start planning at least three months before peak periods to ensure things flow smoothly. (Christmas in July, anyone?) This time is needed to determine personnel needs, research and launch marketing campaigns that are most appealing to your customers, plan a schedule, and set goals. This is especially important for fast-growing companies that have experienced rapid growth in the previous months.
- Hire and train employees before October. You simply can’t be everywhere at once. For this reason, your employees will be the most critical factor in providing high quality customer service during the holiday season. Avoid hiring employees the week before Black Friday and other busy days for your business. Give yourself at least a month to train employees thoroughly before expecting them to handle the chaos gracefully.
- Take care of your employees. Speaking of employees, getting your team to buy into what you’re doing and why it’s important will ensure that your customers are well-taken care of. The best way to do this is to take care of your employees, especially as they’re likely working more hours during the holiday season as well. Take the office to lunch, provide donuts in the breakroom, offer a simple compliment, provide an incentive or award system for holiday sales, or hand out a small Christmas bonus or gift. Gratitude goes a long way this time of year, especially for those who work long, hard hours to make your company great.
- Help customers help themselves. While most customers want a direct line to the boss’ number at the first sign of a problem with their product or service, many appreciate several sources of customer service being available. Make sure your website contains an FAQ section, along with multiple ways of contacting your customer service team (ex. phone, email, live chat, etc.). Provide ample information to help your customers help themselves. This will (hopefully) alleviate some of your stress and responsibility and boost customer satisfaction this holiday season.
- Review the numbers. Look over past holiday reports and make predictions about what this year might bring. Having a small business bookkeeping system can greatly simplify this. Doing this will help you know whether you need to hire a few extra hands to help, what to do to boost your marketing efforts, and come up with ways to ensure great customer service before the busy time arrives.
- Increase efficiency. Holidays always seem to come with long lines, last minute deadlines, and at least a small bunch of grinches who aren’t interested in being sold something they’re not out looking for. Do what you can to promote your product, without overdoing it. Hold a team meeting to brainstorm ways to expedite checkout lines and speed up the transaction process. If you’re running a brick and mortar business, organize the store so it’s easy to navigate, even providing maps or booklets explaining your sales and where to find things.
- Get your greeting on. Customers should always be greeted when they walk into your store. Help employees find a happy medium between “hello,” and “hi, how can I help you, would you like to sign up for a credit card, be sure to check out aisle five, how’s the family?” Decide on an appropriate greeting for customers and do your part to make them feel welcome in your business. Customer satisfaction increases when they feel welcome in your store.
- Make it fun. The holidays should be fun, but sometimes harried shoppers lose sight as they’re rushing through their errands. Make your store a sanctuary by livening it up a bit. It can be a simple thing like offering candy every Saturday through October, asking your employees to wear ugly sweaters on Black Friday, passing out a jingle bell to all customers who come through your door, or having Santa at your business a few times during December.
- Monitor social media sites. Rather than a face-to-face confrontation, many unhappy customers are turning to social media to vent their frustrations. Be sure to carefully monitor your business’ social media sites and make sure any complaints that arise there are resolved quickly and politely.
- Focus on the customer, not the sale. While this may sound counterintuitive to your holiday sales goals, focusing on the customer rather than the sale will boost customer service and increase employee satisfaction. It’s better to have a customer leave without a sale, but feel comfortable to come back again, rather than pushing them out the door with $100 worth of items they didn’t really want or need.
With a little focus, planning, and goal-setting, you can make sure your customer satisfaction is high and the complaints are low. What is your small business doing to amp up customer service this holiday season?