It is almost “the most wonderful time of the year.” 

Is it really wonderful for you?

If so, what made it that way?

If not, where did things fall apart?

There is absolutely no denying that the holidays are stressful.

Company managers and employees must manage their own holiday stress and the concerns of their customers.

This can be quite the challenge.

Therefore, this blog post is dedicated to you out there on the front lines.

These eight tips are guaranteed to improve the customer service that you provide to your customers this holiday season.

Tip 1.- It all begins with you. Let your employees know from the start that you support them and you will not let them be mistreated.  Tell your employees and your customers that you believe in a culture of civility, then model it, and uphold it. Uncivil behavior is more than likely to occur with those whom the offender considers “weak.”  The person judged as “weak” is typically anyone who is not seen as an authoritative figure. If your staff feels supported and prepared, then they will perform better in their role when put to the test.  They will be more likely to follow the employee handbook and follow protocol, if they feel it truly matters to someone. In the words of former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, “If the boss cares, then everyone else cares.”

Tip 2. –  Be very careful with the phones! This is a must.  Customers want to know that they matter.  They want a good face to face experience.  If they didn’t, then they would likely be at home shopping online or in their car, ordering by phone.  So, let me elaborate:

*Never take a phone call while you are helping a customer.*  It immediately sends the message that they are not important. They took the time to drive to the store and arrive in person so they should be treated with the most respect possible.  The caller can go to voicemail.

If you are not helping a customer, then try to answer the Business phone between the second and third ring.  Smile when you speak and say something to this effect, “Hello, this is April Furr, shoes sales associate.” Do always ask permission before placing someone on hold.  This is a courtesy.  They simply may not have time to wait and would prefer to call back.  Above all, they want to be given a choice.

Personal Cell Phone Use –

Adhere to company policy.  If cell phones are discouraged on your person, then stow them away.  If they are allowed to be kept near or worn, then be thankful and don’t abuse the privilege. You are there to do a job and you should give the job your undivided attention. Most places of business have a business phone where loved ones can contact you in the event of a real emergency.   

If it is truly an emergency and you must take a personal call while with a customer, then apologize, find the customer additional assistance, through a co-worker or another employee, and then take the call in PRIVATE.  You should always walk away from others and speak quietly on your cell phone.  (It’s just good etiquette.)

Tip 3. –  Do not make promises unless you will keep them.  Honesty, reliability, and trust are necessary to forming good relationships.  People do business with people that they like and trust.  If you promise something to a customer and do not deliver, they are not likely to forget it.

Tip 4. –  Empower your employees.  Equip them with the knowledge they need to solve common and frequent customer problems.  The ability to field questions immediately is a crucial component of customer satisfaction. Provide your staff with the correct information and train them to deliver that information in the right manner at the right time.

Tip 5. –  Listen.  I mean really listen.  Pay attention. Then, summarize what you heard the customer say and ask for clarification.  If you are able to solve the problem, then do so…then and there.  If you cannot solve the problem, then let the customer know that their opinion is important and that you will pass on their concerns.  It is refreshing and exciting to hear that a company truly cares about customer concerns.  This is one of the reasons that Disney is wildly popular.  If something can be made better, then its done.

Tip 6. – Learn the names of your customers.  Introduce oneself upon meeting a new customer if at all possible.  It’s easy.  Extend your hand, smile, and say something like, “Hello, my name is Bob Ross.” The other person will typically follow your lead and provide a name.   If they do not, then it is okay to ask by saying, “May I have your name, please.”  Why?  It helps you create a better customer experience by establishing rapport.  This is also so rare these days that you cannot help but stand apart from your competition by doing introductions.  After all, Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Tip 7. – Set the stage by appealing to their senses.  It’s part of the first impression so make it a good one. People gather information about their environment through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.  This is an area where you can be creative.  Perhaps you can spray a holiday scent or utilize cinnamon sticks as part of your decor to activate their sense of smell.  Overall, appealing to as many senses as possible will help the customer remember you.

Tip 8. –  Be Extra.  In today’s American slang being “extra” means that you are trying to hard, you are over the top, excessive, etc.  In other words, its a dig on your personality and character.  However, don’t you want to be remembered in business?  You want to stand out, be over the top, give attention to detail, and be remembered, right?  I certainly think so.  To me this translates into going the extra mile, walking the customer to the product they need, remembering their name, and sending them a thank you note. (Yes, I do mean a real one.)

By implementing these tips, you will reduce employee stress/turnover and increase your revenue through satisfied customers and their referrals.