“Regardless of how much you spend to support it, your brand is still no better than how your customers experience it”. – Mike Wittenstein
Holiday season brings a lot of cheer to businesses in every industry. The season means more sales, revenue, and profits which obviously is reason for celebration. However, it is also the time when customers become even more demanding, short on patience, and unwilling to accept anything but the best service. For companies this means that they must ramp up customer experiences during holidays or risk losing customers forever. In addition, poor experiences and service could mean that they would be unable to make the additional sales and profits that help to boost business all year round. Research shows that customers who are offended and become irate with a company during holiday season, are unlikely to ever return to the company, and would be certain to let their friends, families, and business associates know of their shoddy experiences.
With that time of year again, has your company ramped up its service and technology to ensure top class customer experiences during holidays? If not, you may already be too late, and could be at risk of being part of the financial ‘celebrations’. Companies can ensure, in several ways, that the kind of service they offer and the experiences customers have during the holiday season with them, turns customers to loyal fans.
The good news is that technology has opened up a sea of options for customers to engage with companies. It would be vital for companies to update the information on their websites, and social media sites, create and test mobile applications, and ensure that all the online information be mobile friendly such that customers would be able to access it whenever and wherever they want. The mobile applications should be such that customers have no problem in searching for products, making comparisons, and even completing purchases on-line. Companies must also make the effort to alert customers about the various holiday season offers, available both online and in-store, such that customers can choose where they would want to shop. The better a company understands its customer base the more personalized and customized it would be able to make its offers, which in turn would ramp up the customer experiences during holidays and beyond.
Through forethought and some planning, any company can find itself ‘celebrating’ the ‘spoils’ from the holiday season. Unfortunately, too many companies make the mistake of not preparing in advance, leaving them vulnerable to the risks and dangers of poor customer experiences that come about by shoddy service, ensuring that customers leave with a lasting poor impression of the company.
Another way to ramp up customer experiences during holidays is to staff up and ensure that everyone receives adequate training to deal with the rush, pressure, and demands of customers. Each employee must understand the importance of staying calm and providing customers top class service. Adequate staff numbers and on-going training will ensure that your workforce is prepared to handle the rush, and not feel overwhelmed and overworked. Stressed employees would never be able to ramp up customer experiences during holidays or any other time either. Another thing that both companies and their staff must remember is never to coerce or seem overly pushy with customers in trying to make a sale. It would be better to ensure that they have a pleasant time, even if they do not buy. Pleasant experiences would ensure that they return to buy – if not immediately, but in the future. The idea is to make a customer for life. In any case, people who leave happy from a store / shopping experience are more likely to recommend the company and its products to others. Even though this may seem counter-productive at the time, it would prove to be a great strategy for future sales and a possible customer for life.
Customers want attention, but simultaneously they also expect the company and its representatives to ‘leave them be’ when they are shopping – either online or in-store. Have you ever noticed how ‘crowded’ it feels if a store representative hovers around you, even though with the intention to help. It is annoying, and especially when customers are rushed and stressed, they prefer to be able to make their decisions on their own. In order to ramp up customer experiences during holidays, it would be better for companies to provide their customers with the relevant information, stock up on products, and systems that would allow customers to shop in peace, but knowing that they would get service and help if they needed it.
As we have mentioned several times, customers hate to wait – for anything. During holidays, companies must anticipate the rush and the resultant long, seemingly never ending queues. In order to ramp up customer experiences during holidays, companies must focus on ways to speed up transactions, hasten the checkout process, and ensure that they enough staff on hand to help customers in any way they may want. Some of the most successful companies have become so because they know how to treat customers well and make them feel valued. One of the best ways to ease the stress on customers is to greet them with a smile, while entering and exiting the store. In the event, that despite best efforts, they do need to wait, they must be assured that the staff is doing their best to move things faster, and customers must be assisted in any way they need while waiting their turn.
Companies must use historical data to pre-empt customer behaviour, the most preferred kind of products, the kind of information that customers seek the most, and other such information that could prove useful to ramp up customer experiences during holidays. Customer behaviour changes significantly during holiday and festival season – reducing patience, rising tempers, high on emotions, and extremely moody. It would be prudent for companies to reduce the stress customers actually feel and presume they would have while shopping in overcrowded stores and malls. Every customer would want the best, and would most likely be looking for specific products, and could easily become irritated if they would be unable to get exactly what they seek. Companies that use data and technology to advantage, would be able to segment their customer ‘types’, thereby making it easier to customize and personalize products, offers, and service, which in turn would help to enhance customer experiences during holidays.
The fact is that customers appreciate even the small, kind, personal touches that companies may provide – many such instances are what lead to customer engagement and over time, loyalty. Many companies pay a lot of attention to customers just before and during the holiday season and post that they forget to pay attention to customers. It would be a nice gesture to thank your most profitable customers post the holiday season for their business. Doing so will ensure that they remember your company, and would most definitely come back to shop even during other times of the year.
By making a few changes, and putting together tighter processes, a company can easily ramp up customer experiences during holidays, and ensure that their customers have a stress-free shopping experience. There is no doubt that service to customers during the holidays is even more challenging than normal times, but companies that can make it a productive and happy time for customers, their employees, and their business.