In the holiday season, customers are happy to make a one-time purchase from a store that they normally wouldn’t frequent because they’re looking for a gift or special holiday item. That may help you make your sales goal today, but won’t help you during the slow season after the holidays.
The holiday season is tough, for shoppers, retailers, and companies of all stripes. Even if this isn’t actually your busy season you’re still likely to be dealing with a lot of customers who are much more stressed and upset than usual. Shipping and moving deadlines get intense, and customers feel neglected. They make take out their frustration at someone else on you, and there’s not an awful lot that you can do about it.
These four strategies will help you win customers this holiday season, and keep them throughout the rest of the year.
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Keep Your Cool
When your customer escalates, what do you do? If the answer is anything other than work to de-escalate the situation, you’re not providing the best customer service possible. But how do you keep yourself calm and change the dynamic of the conversation?
- Take a breath. Many experts say that it takes two to fight. If you are responding to a customer’s frustration with calmness, it’s much harder for them to continue to escalate (though not impossible).
- Apologize. Even if you haven’t done anything. Saying “I think we got off on the wrong foot; have I offended you in some way?” can be a neutral way to let the customer know that they are out of line.
- Question yourself. Are you really doing all you can for the customer? In general, bending over backwards for angry customers isn’t a winning business strategy over the long term, but if your customer has a legitimate grievance, have you done everything that you can to make it right?
After the situation has resolved, make sure to take a moment to breathe before you proceed to your next customer. Bringing your frustration into the next call or encounter will only perpetuate the frustration.
For many Christians, this is the season of Advent and Christmas. But for many other American families, there are very different holidays this time of year, with very different symbology. For some religions, the December holidays are far from the most important holidays in their religious year. And still other groups don’t celebrate any religious holidays this time of year.
Businesses have the opportunity to lead the way into a more tolerant society by being respectful of the observances, religious and secular, of their employees and customers. Instead of waiting for employees to ask for time off, be proactive. Remind them that asking for time off ahead of time will help the business plan for staffing levels.
Having happier employees, who are able to spend time with their families when they want to or are required to, will translate into better customer interactions, which will help you grow your business.
Offer Special Gifts
Some strategies are classics because they work. Even customers who don’t celebrate gift giving occasions at the end of the calendar year still enjoy getting something for free. Giving away branded promotional items, extra discounts, and services to be used in the New Year, are tried and true ways of drumming up business and thanking customers for sticking with you throughout the year.
To make this work, however, you need to offer something that the customer wants, which can be hard to anticipate. Some online retailers get around this by offering a selection screen during the check-out process where a customer can choose between several different free sample options.
The customer feels valued, and also gets a sample that they want, as opposed to something that is likely to be thrown out for not being compatible or useful.
Focus On Existing Customers
The temptation at this time of year is to try and get new customers, with all the extra foot traffic that may be turning up in your area. This is understandable, but it’s more profitable over the long term to focus on your existing customers.
Thank them for shopping with you, encourage them to let their friends and family (or work partners) know about your excellent service, and reward them with loyalty coupons or special sales.
By focusing on your existing customers, you help to build a support wall of regular business as you head into the new year. This will help you even out your cash flow and support your business through the lean times.
What tips and tricks has your business used to connect with customers during the holidays?