The holiday season can be a lucrative time for many businesses. Most retailers experience an increase in foot traffic and sales as their customers frantically seek to tick items off their shopping lists. That momentum typically carries into Boxing Week bargain hunting before it tapers off. It is an inherently stressful time for a lot of folks, but there’s also something undeniably special about the holiday frenzy. The lovely decor, Christmas tunes, gingerbread lattes, and the anticipation of holiday festivities are all wonderful things. The sense of panic when one realizes there are only three days left before they have to cook the perfect meal, plus buy and wrap what hopefully are perfect gifts…not so wonderful. Still, this is a great time for business owners to commit to increasing their loyal customer base. How? By asking themselves this question – ‘Is our client experience contributing to the wonderfulness or the stress of the season?’ – and making a conscious commitment to focus on the former. Think about it – chances are you will have a lot of first time visitors to your establishment – and how you decide to handle those interactions during high volume times is bound to leave a lasting impression. Here are three simple reminders to make sure your customers leave with a cheer instead of sneer.
1. Be Mindful
We’ve all had our share of college jobs to know what serving that 37th latte of the day is like. It can feel repetitive and perfunctory. Especially during busy times, it’s very easy to slip into a robotic routine where you see customers as series of perpetual tasks, as opposed to unique human beings. If you want to create a truly great client experience, it’s important to instil what I dub as the ‘culture of mindfulness’ in your place of business. It’s a mindset shift based on the corny (but true!) assumption that we each have the power to make someone’s day better even during a 30 second interaction. This philosophy was an integral part of the customer service training I used to deliver, and it goes a long way not only in terms of customer loyalty, but also staff morale. When you treat each interaction as an opportunity to positively influence another person – through eye contact, a smile, friendly banter – it can shift the agency of the most stressful and boring job. Consider this – that 37th latte a customer is buying may be the fuel they need to get them through a post-work shopping marathon, or it may be a reward after a difficult day. How they feel walking away with it is up to you. The task can be repetitive, but the exchange doesn’t have to be! All it requires is a conscious attitude shift towards presence and compassion, and that after all, is what the word ‘service‘ is all about.
2. Be Helpful
I’ve recently walked into a major office supply chain (which shall remain nameless) armed with their inventory and pricing regarding an Apple keyboard I was on the hunt for. My last one sadly met its demise via a clumsily spilt cup of coffee. I wasn’t in the most patient of moods given that my life and work pretty much depend on having a functional keyboard, plus it was pouring rain outside…you get the picture. The store clerk impatiently waved me in the general direction of computer accessories and let me cluelessly navigate the labyrinth of electronics. When I returned empty handed, he simply shrugged and uttered my favourite customer cop-out line ‘we must be out.’ It was only after I shoved my phone with the clearly displayed stock item in his face that he offered to ‘check the back.’ You can pretty much guess the ending of this tale. I came home with a brand new keyboard, and my life made sense again. Now, as much as I appreciated him making that effort, I would have appreciated it more if it didn’t come about so begrudgingly. Chances are I won’t be going back there anytime soon! By a stark contrast, every time I walk into Whole Foods and wonder any isle with a confused expression for longer than 45 seconds – boom! Seemingly out of nowhere a grocery clerk appears, smiling and willing to stop whatever he’s doing to guide me like a lost toddler until I’m facing whatever item I’m seeking. Some may think this display of helpfulness is excessive and unproductive, but let me tell you, I am one of their most loyal customers, and I’m sure that feeling appreciated has something to do with it! So go that extra mile. We all like to feel special, and businesses that manage to create the experience of reverence will definitely make strides in customer retention.
2. Be Generous
The spirit of giving is soaring high during the holidays, so seize the good vibes and hone your goodwill efforts. Whether it’s sending personalized cards to top clients, offering in-store gift wrapping, or making sure your staffing levels are up to par – there are tons of creative ways to show your generous side. It’s definitely a great time to introduce a Loyalty program to reward your customers, or ramp up your efforts on the current one. You can also design engaging contests or run fun giveaways on your social media platforms.. Hosting a festive Open House for your VIP clients and offering them exclusive deals as they munch on delicious appetizers is another lovely customer appreciation idea. Contributing you time and funds to local community causes and encouraging your clients to do the same will surely go a long way in fostering the spirit of generosity. There is a growing movement towards conscious spending as more and more customers choose to align themselves with sustainable and locally beneficial business practices. Businesses that harness the value of social responsibility and contribution (or what we call Surplus for Purpose) will be leading this new frontier and retaining their clients!