How To Prepare Your Business For The Holiday Season
The holiday season marks the busiest time of year for many businesses. With the right preparation, it can also be the most profitable time of year. As the holidays begin to ramp up, part of this process is setting expectations for your team and your customers.
Here are seven ways you can prep to set your business up for a successful holiday season:
1. Communicate Holiday Hours Well In Advance.
If you haven’t already communicated holiday hours or holiday-related operational changes to customers, now is the time. Notify existing clients in advance, and remind them again directly before they come into effect. This can be done efficiently by sending out a mass text or e-mail blast to your client list.
You can also keep prospective clients in the loop by updating your holiday hours for all locations on your google business profile, your website, and your socials. If people call your business, consider including your holiday hours in your IVR or automated greeting.
Clearly communicate with your employees when holiday hours will come into effect and what days your business will be closed. Keeping employees informed ahead of time can help them remind customers of operational changes too.
2. Make Sure You’re Ready to Handle Holiday FAQs.
If holiday hours impact your availability, make sure your team is ready to advise where customers can reach out for additional support. Additionally, you should identify the most common holiday-related inquiries or problems beforehand and prepare to respond to them. To find out what customers frequently ask, gather and analyze customer support tickets from the previous winter holidays.
All customer-facing employees should have holiday FAQs readily available whether they are providing support via phone, email, or livechat.
You can also create a FAQ page specifically for the holidays – just make sure it’s easy to find and navigate! For example, if you’re an e-commerce business you may want to include refund/return policies, or shipping timelines. Regardless of your industry, offering comprehensive self-service options can help reduce the number of people contacting customer support.
3. Provide Training Refreshers on Customer De-Escalation.
Emotions may be high and customers may be agitated this holiday season because of supply chain problems, labour shortages, and rising prices. Good customer service reps understand that it’s not personal. Customers are often stressed because they are pressed for time, so responding with speed and empathy is essential.
Prepared your customer service team with the right script and revisit best practices for identifying and responding to potential customer escalations.
It’s also crucial that team members know what to do in the event that they can’t diffuse a situation or provide the right assistance. Your escalation process should be documented with clearly defined protocols for different types of issues. You should also include the appropriate channel and chain of command for escalating each kind of issue, to ensure an efficient resolution.
4. Prioritize Mental Health Support For Staff.
The holidays can be the most wonderful time of year and the most difficult for some of us. 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, according to the American Psychological Association. For employees in customer service roles, this stress can be amplified when dealing with customers who are also stressed out.
As an employer, it’s important to be intentional about how you approach mental health in the workplace. Keeps the lines of communication open but remember to set boundaries.
Most managers are not mental health workers which is why it’s important to offer resources, such as an employee assistance program (EAP), so your staff can access professional help. Communicate clearly and regularly what sort of resources, support or accommodations are available year-round and over the holidays.
5. Create Employee Schedules Early and Plan for Absenteeism.
The stress of the holidays may be one of the reasons that employee absences spike in December and January. You and your team can plan for the holidays more effectively if employee schedules are provided in advance.
Looking at historical data can help you pinpoint the busiest days or times of the day during seasonal spikes. In turn, you can better gauge and forecast how many staff you’ll need to schedule in order to meet holiday demand.
You may want to also review your book-off approval process and remind employees of it too. One way to make planning for unexpected absences easier is a book-off line. With a book-off line, employees can call a dedicated phone number any time of the day and speak to a real person to explain when and why they will be absent. This information is immediately relayed to their supervisor, manager, or HR so that they can coordinate coverage.
6. Monitor The Weather and Plan Proactively.
When the weather outside is frightful it can pose severe consequences to business continuity. Depending on your clientele and industry, you may experience disruptions to your operations due to the following:
- Staffing shortages
- Supply chain delays and shortages
- Damages to physical infrastructure
- Interruptions to services like power, transportation and communications
As soon as you identify the weather-related risks that are most likely to impact your business, you can prepare for them. Storm preparedness plans should at a minimum describe the team members involved and the steps you’ll take before the storm (proactive), during the storm (response), and after the storm (recovery).
It’s crucial that your plan outlines how you will communicate an impending storm to customers and employees, and when they can expect updates. Your storm preparedness plan should be part of a larger business continuity plan that is tested regularly and adjusted as needed.
7. Hire Seasonal Workers.
Hiring an answering service may be part of your plan to maintain continuity this holiday season. Access to remote seasonal support ensures that you have additional coverage during peak hours, temporary coverage for absenteeism, company events, or time off, and after hours coverage during extended holiday hours.
Outsourcing all or part of your support team can increase your flexibility, boost employee morale, and enhance your customer experience.
The best part is that you can scale your customer support team up or down. This process can be less time-consuming and more cost-effective costly than scrambling to hire and train new staff or letting them go when things quiet down in the new year.
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