By Lauri Apple
Lauri Apple is a contributing editor at Gawker, a law school graduate, and a generalist who can write about any subject. Lauri blogs via Contently.com.
Stressed out about the upcoming holiday season? Don’t be. With some preparation, you can maximize your business’s potential to draw in new customers and achieve higher-than-usual sales. Here are some tips to help you plan for what should be the most exciting and profitable time of the year for your business.
Review Customer Service Skills With Your Staff
Some of your employees are probably holiday vets. Others, new to retail, will need extra help resolving issues likely to come up during peak times–especially frustrated or unhappy customers.
A good way to bring everyone up to speed is to hold a special customer service refresher workshop You can review problem-solving procedures, take questions from your staff, and draw upon the wisdom of your more experienced employees. Listen to the newbies as well–they bring a fresh perspective.
Make the workshop informative, but also make it fun. Do both by devising scenarios based on situations that might come up. Divide employees into teams, and have them creatively resolve these problems. Let the group critique the solutions, and offer prizes for the best ideas.
Serve coffee and pastries, or wine and cheese, after the formal workshop. Lots of good ideas will come up then as well.
Scheduling is Key
Measure your staffs’ strengths and weaknesses. Try to avoid staffing all-new employees on a shift; instead, have a combination of experienced and new employees on the floor.
Hire Additional Staff and Stock Up on Supplies
Spending a bit extra to have three cashiers instead of two, will pay off in more satisfied customers. The less time it takes for a shopper to check out, the happier he or she will be. Also, be diligent in stocking up on supplies–especially necessities such as cash register paper and bags.
Generosity Pays Off
Anticipate stressful moments, by providing holiday-themed snacks and beverages to make waiting in line more pleasant. Plan a routing system for long lines that maintains order and minimizes interference with other shoppers. If necessary, place someone at the front door to perform crowd control.
Make your staff happier, and more physically comfortable, by offering mini-massages on their breaks.
Make Gift Buying Easy
Do you sell lots of small items? Put these stocking stuffers near the cash register, where people are most likely to impulse buy. If you sell related items, combine them into packages and offer a special holiday discount. Create special signage that promotes these items.
Collaborate With Area Businesses
Businesses that pool their resources can take advantage of opportunities. Print advertising, for example, can be expensive for one store, but affordable for a group.
So invite fellow businesses owners over for a brainstorming session. Discuss holding one or more special holiday shopping days with discounts, holiday treats, and even entertainment.
Issue a joint holiday newsletter listing all of your stores’ hours, contact information, and refund and exchange policies. Ask your business partners to promote your services and sales on Facebook and Twitter, and do the same for them.
Work Your Email and Social Media
Offer holiday discounts to your Facebook and Twitter followers, newsletter subscribers, and your email list. Let your staff participate in sending out tweets and posting to your wall. They’ll feel more involved in the business, and your followers will appreciate hearing a variety of voices. Keep track of responses so that you’ll be ready for next year.
Use these ideas to create an effective holiday season strategy. Share them with your employees and invite them to provide feedback. With a bit of planning, you can make holiday shopping a gift for customers and employees alike.