Is your customer service ready for the holidays?

A woman talking with a cashier at a store.

Even if your small business isn’t part of the retail industry, there’s just something about the holidays that makes any workplace feel more active. From dealing with rushed (and sometimes edgy) customers or clients caught up in the holiday whirlwind to ensuring that your team is covered for workloads and vacations, it’s easy to become distracted and overwhelmed. And that could cause your usual top-notch customer service to slip a notch or two.

So, as we head into the home stretch of December, here are a few tips to help keep your customer service cool when everyone else is in a holiday tizzy.

Be organized

Even if you haven’t put a plan into place earlier in the year to ensure you have sufficient resources for the holidays (e.g., extra help, supplies, etc.), it’s not too late to take a deep breath and jot down a quick plan now. While you may not be able to hire extra help at such short notice, you can make a note of the things you need to keep top of mind through the holiday period, such as:

  • A calendar of scheduled vacation days for you and your team.

  • The coverage schedules required for each position.

  • The dates and details of your holiday sales or promotions.

  • Your holiday hours posted on your website, phone messages, social media and in the office.

  • Any supplies that are running low.

  • Any recognition needed for customers/clients (e.g., gifts for special customers, greeting cards, customer appreciation promotion or event).

Slow down

Slowing down can seem counterintuitive when you’re in the middle of a holiday rush, but too much rushing on your part can cause a multitude of problems for your customers. That’s why for you and your team, mental preparation for a busy time is every bit as important as physically preparing your business with resources. A couple of tips to help:

  • Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep combined with a packed schedule and holiday stress can be a recipe for lowered immunity. And being sick is no way to spend your December.

  • Take breaks during the workday. Sitting at a desk or standing behind a sales counter all day can do a number on your mind and body. So, whether it’s a 15-minute walk outside or simply sitting quietly in the back room to do some restorative breathing, breaks relieve stress.

  • Conquer stress with fun. Share the fun with your customers by posting photos on social media of your business’s holiday decorations or events.

Keep communicating

Don’t force your employees—or your customers—to wonder what’s going on if issues arise. A crashed point-of-sale system, an employee daycare emergency, bad weather or an unhappy customer can derail the best-laid plans.

  • When issues occur, make sure all points of contact with your employees and customers are covered (e.g., updates on your internal communication apps, website, phone, social media and even email if warranted).

  • If the issue is an upset customer/client, make sure they’re acknowledged and know you’re listening to them. Seriously consider their feedback, and whether it’s something in your customer service plan that should be addressed. Going that extra mile will pay off in customer loyalty.

Recognize your team

Unless you’re a one-person show, it’s fair to say your team is as much the heart of your business as you are. After all, they’re the ones who work most with your clientele (for better or for worse) and handle the tasks that keep the business going. Don’t forget to show the team how much you appreciate them. Some suggestions:

  • Since the holidays are busy for everyone, a holiday event outside work hours may not fit into everyone’s schedules—so consider treating everyone to lunch during work hours. Give plenty of notice to your customers that you’ll be closed for a couple of hours for a work event.

  • Even if you show your appreciation year-round, it means a lot for employees to know they’re appreciated during the holidays. You can find unique gifts on a budget; here’s Real Simple magazine’s list to help spark some ideas. (P.S. Earn extra “Greatest Boss” points by including a personalized note of thanks.)

Most of all, take time to enjoy the season. Yes, you’re in business to make money, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and lose track of what’s important. Is losing precious time with your family and friends worth just one more sale on the night before a holiday? Is it more fun to relax with your employees at a holiday lunch or to watch them crank out work to pad the profits? Or is it more fulfilling to take a few extra minutes and make a customer’s day with a laugh and a warm holiday wish than to send them off with a mechanical farewell and a rushed, “Next!” 

We have a feeling we know exactly how you’d respond—and we heartily approve. So, whatever holiday you celebrate this December, may you and yours have your most wonderful one ever.