customer serviceNew people are introduced to your small business during the holiday season because people are out shopping for items for others and it is one of the peak times of the year for retail. How can you get those people who are trying you out for the first time to come back to you and your business? You have the opportunity to turn them into loyal repeat customers by providing a high level of service with them, especially within this first interaction. The problem is that a survey by Corvisa Cloud found that 69% of consumers report worse customer experiences during the holidays. How can your business go about avoiding the trap of bad customer service during the holidays?

Small businesses have an advantage in the area of customer service. Ronald Goodstein, a Georgetown University associate professor of marketing, said in an article from Bloomberg Businessweek, “The real differentiator for small business is providing the excellent, personalized customer service that has been lost in retail today.”

Here are six ways you can improve customer service during the holidays, according to the Bloomberg article:

  1. Be a good example. As the business owner, make an effort to greet customers. Always be willing to go above and beyond for your customers and treat them with the respect they deserve, holidays are a hectic time for everyone but by setting a positive example your staff is more likely to follow along. Greet your staff and offer them something to eat and drink when they get to work. Having treats on hand for customers is also a great idea. Show your staff how much you care, and watch them emulate that for your customers. By being positive while at work that positivity is also likely to spread. 
  2. Manage seasonal staff. Temporary staff needs to be provided with support. It is your responsibility to make sure that new employees get all of the training that they need to allow them to be able to succeed for you during the holidays. Make sure they don't all work the same shift, and always have a permanent employee around to provide assistance as needed. They need to have support to ensure that they are able to quickly respond to issues and fix mistakes.
  3. Exceed expectations. Show customers your appreciation by sending them unexpected gifts. A simple gesture like bumping ground shipping up to expedited shipping when it’s a gift that has a long way to go can make all the difference for a customer.
  4. Empower employees. Give them the room and authority to please your customers. Eliminate some of the long, annoying processes and management approvals they would normally have to go through. Trust them to make good decisions so all of your customers get the attention they deserve and know that their time is valued.
  5. Reward staff. Surprise them with lunch, especially on busy days. Offer bonuses and sales rewards to keep their motivation high. Plan a great holiday party for staff, and allow them bring a friend or family member as they have probably missed out on spending time with loved ones during the busy season. Whatever you can do to tell and show your employees that you care and appreciate their hard work will make a world of difference to them and will go a long way in keeping them happy, and they will likely pass that happiness with their job along to your customers.
  6. Run the numbers. Look at your records of 2013 and use it to determine when you’ll need to have more staff on hand. Have a look at cash register wait times and consider how you can decrease them this year. Make your expectations clear, communicate out to your employees what they are and help your staff figure out how to meet the goals. It is also important to set realistic goals that are capable of being achieved, otherwise it can be demoralizing for your staff because they don't feel like they are able to do what it takes to achieve the task at hand.