The Holidays are Coming

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It’s November.

You know what that means.

There’s just a handful of weeks left until Christmas. Which can be an extremely stressful time of year for the majority of businesses.

And if the fact that Christmas is just around the corner wasn’t enough, there’s Black Friday to contend with first.

Yes, that delight that we have inherited from over the pond, where shoppers go wild in the aisles the day after Thanksgiving, seeking out the latest must have (but will probably rarely use) ‘too good to miss’ deals.

How anyone can afford to spend like crazy just a mere five weeks before the biggest holiday of the year confounds me. But they do. So, there we have it.

Question is though… how do businesses deal with the madness of Black Friday and Christmas so close together?

Let’s face it… we are heading in to one of the most lucrative stretches of the year.

Which means shops and websites get busier and deliveries can take longer.

If Father Christmas can achieve sky high satisfaction scores in just one night, surely you can survive from now, through Black Friday and up to the festive season?

But, what’s the secret to getting it right, without staff going completely insane, losing their tempers or pissing off a load of customers?!

Keep calm… and stay positive

Whichever American invented Black Friday for the day after Thanksgiving was having a laugh.

Ok, the ker-ching of the cash register is something to be thankful for, but that’s about it. It’s got to be pretty stressful for any business out there that’s hoping to offer the right kind of emotive end-user experience.

And as for Christmas…. Well, that just adds to the trauma!

But if you can deliver a positive front-line, it will help to alleviate at least some of the tension for staff and consumers alike.

We all know that one person who gets in the holiday spirit as soon as we have closed the door on Halloween. (You know the one. The person that plays Christmas music from the beginning of November and acts like Buddy from the film Elf!)

So, put them front and centre, whether it be as a face at the cash register or helpdesk, or even just the voice on the end of the phone or fingers on the keyboard.

Because customers can detect mood from just a voice or written correspondence.

Don’t let Scrooge or the Grinch loose on your customers over the next 6 weeks.

You need someone cheerful handling your phone calls, social media and emails, or staffing the tills.

Be mindful though…. You don’t want to just put some grinning, happy-go-lucky soul in the firing line who’s going to be singing carols or making Black Friday jokes.

They also need to be able to get straight to the point and acknowledge any issues that arise with speed and efficiency. Therefore, they can ward off any negative customer feedback before it arises!

Open your ears

We are back on the elves again! It’s important to be all ears all year, but especially when it comes to crazy season.

Your customer feedback management teams simply need to listen.

As soon as it’s discovered that a consumer is dissatisfied (or, worse still, furious), they should jump in and find swift solutions, putting procedures in place to resolve problems and avoid complaints before they escalate.

It’s even worth planning ahead and holding customer focus groups to find out what issues frustrate customers the most, so you can put plans in place to try and avoid them.

Of course, it’s a little late in the day to do that for Black Friday now, but take note of any problems that do arise next week, and try to find solutions in time for Christmas.

Get social

Remember, customers are busy over the holidays too, it’s not just you, Santa, the elves and Black Friday and Christmas shop assistants!

So, even the most curmudgeonly consumers are less likely to take to the phone to vent their frustrations for fear of long wait times.

Therefore, it’s important to keep your eyes on the social media ball. Because people may take to the internet as a quick and easy route for the answers to their questions or troubleshooting tips.

Or, of course, to sound off!

It’s therefore imperative to make sure your social media channels are well staffed so you can offer quick, responses.

Timely consumer interaction on Facebook and Twitter or via FAQ’s or online chat can help you avoid unwanted negativity and, thus, help protect your reputation. It will also assist in boosting end-user satisfaction and, therefore, may have a positive impact on customer loyalty.

And remember… social media also serves to spread positivity as well as negativity, so a happy customer who has their questions answered and issues resolved may well spread the good word!

Don’t forget your employees

Yes, your main priority in crazy season has to be your customers. But happy employees are required to pass on that holiday joy to consumers.

No one will leave your store smiling if they have been dealing with a real bah-humbug!

So, make sure morale is high amongst your employees. Reward them for hard work and a job well done.

And remind them – especially your customer service professionals – that their actions and frame of mind impact on the customer experience, as well as the company as a whole. Everyone plays a vital part in keeping things moving at this busy time of year.

You could perhaps even consider introducing Black Friday and Christmas incentives and games to keep them smiling. Or maybe do something to support a charity to make everyone feel good about themselves, or plan for a secret santa gift giving event.

And encourage team members to look after their health and wellbeing too (the last thing you want is for half of your staff to be off sick at this cold and miserable time of year!)

Honesty is key

Customers know it is silly season. They aren’t all completely blinkered.

So, be honest and don’t over promise. Because if you over promise, there is every chance you may end up under-delivering.

Keep customers informed if delivery delays are likely. Act quickly, provide updates and don’t keep the customer guessing.

Honesty from a business is a real bonus for consumers.

So, keep calm and carry on. You got this.

And if all else fails, you could always drown your sorrows in a vat of egg nog.

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