With the official Black Friday starting gun for the holiday season now officially fired, we thought we would share some tips for helping you prepare your teams for the remainder of the season. Remember, Black Friday and Cyber Monday still account for only a small percentage of holiday sales. The bulk of the holiday season is still ahead.
Preparation is the key to not only surviving but thriving during the holiday season. Do you have adequate labor? How will you inform customers of changing store hours? Can you augment your parking if needed to accommodate customers? Preparing for the season’s challenges ahead of time is the best way to make sure that increased traffic does not result in increased customer service issues.
Below we’ve assembled 6 tips to prepare your organization for the holiday season. While not every tip will apply across business models, most are fairly universal.
1. Learn From the Past
Have an informal meeting with your frontline teams to determine best, and worst, practices from the previous year. Make an assessment based on your conversation about where you are and what you can do to enhance your winning strategies and to avoid repeating bad performances.
2. Take Inventory
No shock here. The holidays are prime time for running out of inventory — and supplies. Make sure you are well stocked with both.
3. Prepare Your Team for Problems
Customers will be edgier and more hurried than normal during the holiday season. There will, inevitably, be more problems than usual (though hopefully this post will help you avoid some). The good news is that many of these issues are predictable. Prepare your staff accordingly.
Equip them with a cheat sheet or handout that contains common problems and the solutions. Prepare them for the realities of the season by role-playing likely scenarios. Quiz them on your products, services, and the processes that they will need to know forwards and backwards to execute when the heat is on.
4. Make Sure Your Team Is Scheduled, and Sufficient
Labor issues are among the most sticky managerial challenges of the holiday season. From seasonal employees, to time off requests, to the post-Christmas “flu,” making sure that you are setup to handle the increased traffic of the season is a complicated dance, involving many moving parts, and you need your team in its place ready to roll.
Many of your employees have likely already requested time off for the holidays and you’ve adapted your coverage accordingly. Now, you just need to be ready for the unexpected because really, it’s not that unexpected. Have contingency plans in place for the common staffing challenges.
5. Have Small Gifts and Surprises Planned
For many businesses, the holiday season is the time of year they lean on staff heavier than usual, resulting in extra hours, heavier workloads, and sometimes tougher deadlines than normal.
Even if your company gives employees holiday gifts, reward them with extras like gift cards, special trips to the coffee shop, movie tickets or holiday treats. Even giving an overworked or overstressed employee an extra break could make a big difference in their attitude and service delivery.
6. Host A Decorating Contest For Your Staff
And this final tip is for those who might have been slacking a bit on putting up decorations. It’s only December 4th, so it’s not too late! Encourage your staff to form teams and decorate a section of the office or your business. The team who decorates the best room wins a lunch on the company.
A final thought: We are releasing a research report on consumer attitudes towards holiday shopping next week, the The Holiday Shopping Experience: Customer’s Viewpoint 2014. In the study, we found a number of surprising facts about the holiday shopping experience and also confirmed what most of us suspect anyway, holiday shopping is not a positive experience for a lot of customers.
Let’s make it our mission to change that. Use the tips above to help make sure your organization is creating great experiences for customers. If you do, you’ll stand out like a shining ornament atop a tree.
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