Although there’s nothing quite like preparing six months in advance for the holiday rush, if you’re a small business facing down the holiday season with no small amount of fear, take heart. There are still things you can do to better ready yourself for the upcoming rush.
It’s true that with Thanksgiving already in the rearview mirror and the December holidays looming, there isn’t much time left for small businesses to make major changes to their holiday plans. That said, many small businesses can succeed by keeping three key things top of mind as they jump headfirst into what, for many, is the busiest season of the year.
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- Dates Matter
It should go without saying that dates matter during a holiday season, and not just for the company holiday party. No matter what business you are in, making sure purchases, services and consultations adhere to the very real constraints of external December timeline must be paramount during the holiday madness. Importantly, remember that sticking fast to dates means building in buffer room for the mishaps and delays that inevitably will occur. The number of small businesses who fail on this point each and every year is astounding, and it doesn’t only make for an unhappy customer. Small businesses that fall down on the job of adhering to strict dates and deadlines during the season will see a drastic downturn in their business come next year. Ultimately, if you’re a small business don’t discount the importance of dates for things other than making sure that ugly Christmas sweater reaches your nephew in time. Your customers, employees, and providers are counting on you to deliver in a timely fashion this time of year – so don’t disappoint.
- Customer Service, Customer Service, Customer Service
There is nothing quite as important as quality customer service in a time of year which many customers report as one of the most stressful periods of their entire year. Without a doubt, one of the best things you can do as a small business is prepare to “WOW” your customers during the holidays. Luckily, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Make sure your team members who handle customer service are well briefed on the importance of quality service and communication during this period. Additionally, ensure you have enough support to handle the expected load. Those two things alone with get you ninety percent of the way there. It’s often easier to remember the importance of customer service if you are in a field where your customers ring your doorbell every day. If that’s not the case, don’t feel your customers aren’t watching – and waiting – to be attended to. Potential customers for your online business—particularly those who follow your social media posts, or past customers who would like to hear from you—are prime examples of customers who could use some service this holiday season. Make it your job not to disappoint.
- Over deliver, over deliver, over deliver
There’s nothing quite like a stressful holiday season filled with personal demands to make a small business shrink into itself and operate at less than its best. Unfortunately, this is exactly the wrong approach. Small businesses need to remember that right when their customers are feeling the end-of-year madness is the exact moment to step up and go the extra mile. Over delivering during the holiday season is one of the single best things that small businesses can do to ensure that happy customers will return again and again, every season. If the idea of over delivering as a small business owner has you running scared (i.e. you’re just trying to make it through the season!), don’t fear. One small tweak to your holiday plan can make a huge difference, and it’s not too hard to implement. It involves making sure that your team members are on board with the IDEA of over delivering, and then working to ensure that individuals creatively think about how they can best do so in their individual roles. Customer service agents, for example, can go the extra mile to ensure they are as friendly as can be with customers. Support staff can work to return tickets even faster during the month of December. Executives can commit to keeping open office hours for internal team members more regularly. In the end, every team member in a small business can work to over deliver — and in doing so, everyone will benefit.
Although there’s no denying the holiday season is already upon us, there’s no reason for small businesses to fear they missed the boat when it comes to preparing for the upcoming holiday rush. Instead, employing these few key tactics will go far to keeping the holiday craziness at bay.