The Christmas holiday season is a prosperous time for many businesses. However, there is a lot of competition out there. A company can employ all sorts of gimmicks during the holidays – discounts, two-for-one sales, time-limited offers, special events, open houses, etc. These are all good ways to attract customers. But when every business offers similar deals, how does your business stand out above all others? Customers can be so overwhelmed with messages to BUY NOW signs everywhere that they don’t even know what they want. For this reason, I want to share with you 5 Holiday Tips for having a successful holiday season.
Understanding Your Customers
No matter what your holiday strategy is, a top priority is understanding your clients or customers. It pays to know what they want but also what they hate.
What Do Customers Hate Most?
I don’t think any business hasn’t had to deal with an upset client or customer. If you do something they hate, they can be most unforgiving. Here are the top things customers hate most:
- Not staying in touch with customers.
- Using too much industry jargon that the customer doesn’t understand.
- Failing to listen to customers’ concerns/ideas.
- Telling rather than explaining.
- Communicating without courtesy.
What Do Customers Consider is Most Important?
The Marketing Science Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts, asked customers of a wide range of service businesses what they considered most important in getting their satisfaction. Here is a tabulation of their responses:
RELIABILITY: This topped the list of what customers expect. A significant source of customer dissatisfaction is the “unkept promise.”
RESPONSIVENESS: Be helpful and provide prompt service.
ASSURANCE: Employees should be knowledgeable and courteous and should convey confidence in the service they provide.
EMPATHY: Customers want individualized attention and people who will listen to them.
TANGIBLES: Physical facilities and equipment should be attractive and clean. Employees should be dressed and groomed well.
When a business gives excellent service and exchanges a valuable product, they increase the rate of returning customers, and satisfied customers tell others, which creates new customers for the business. Word of Mouth is your most powerful promotional tool!
5 Holiday Tips
From my travels around the world, some places I think of when I think of 5-star service are the Ritz Carlton; Kagurazaka Ishikawa Restaurant, Japan; Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco; the Champs-Élysées Hotel, Paris; and the Bernadine restaurant in New York.
There are many aspects that go into making them 5-star businesses. Did you know that the Ritz Carlton frontline staff in their first year of employment are said to participate in 300 hours of training and 120 hours of further training per year after that? Their Essentials of Service training program include:
- general service principles.
- making a good first impression in person and on the phone.
- the importance of active listening skills.
- and workplace manners for creating a positive environment with co-workers.
Well, short of training your staff for 300 hours, there are still steps you can take to create 5-star customer service for your business.
- Be responsive.
How do you feel when you walk into a business and the receptionist greats you half-heartedly or not at all? Or worse, you are greeted in an unfriendly manner? You would not return to that business, right? A friendly greeting is top on the list because this is the first point of contact for the public with your business. Whether in person, on the phone, or even through an email order, it must be friendly.
- Anticipate your customer’s needs.
Anticipating customer needs is about being proactive. In other words, you pay attention to who your customer is and what they might need. In other words, what product or service they want. Anticipating their needs includes reaching out to them proactively instead of waiting around for them to contact you. I imagine you have experienced this while eating in a restaurant. For example, you have a waiter or waitress who is attentive to your needs. They are at your table to check if there is anything else you need before you have to ask. On the flip side, you have the waiter or waitress you need to waive down to get their attention. Which one gets the better tip?
- Be honest, transparent, and have perspective.
Clear and honest communication is the most important hallmark of transparency. When you are dealing with customers, you must be open and honest with them. Make sure they understand what you are communicating. A sneaky salesperson might think he is successful if he can pull the wool over customers’ eyes and get them to buy a lousy product or overcharge them. However, dishonesty often ends up in a refund or bad reviews that hurt his future sales.
- Think of solutions. Do not become part of the problem.
No matter how well you run your business, you will run into problems. When faced with a complaint from a customer, be patient and listen to them. In many cases, the problem is already covered by your company policy and procedure. But even if it is not, deal with it from the viewpoint that you will solve the problem. Your priority is high-quality service and products delivered to your customers.
- Be positive, present, and poised to help your customer.
You may be having one of your worst days ever, but you cannot let that enter dealing with your customer. Do whatever it takes to walk into the office or get on the phone, emails, or Zoom meeting with a positive attitude. By dealing with your customers in this manner, you set a good example and build confidence in your business. They will want to return to you for more service or products and will recommend you to others.
The biggest problems I have seen in companies over the years regarding customer service is a lack of caring and listening. To give good customer service and be successful, you must be proactive, not reactive. Remember, no matter what the situation, remain calm, collected, and keep a professional demeanor. The above tips of course apply any time of the year. But we hope you apply these 5 holiday tips now and have a prosperous holiday season.
Rohn WalkerCEO International Executive Technology