The holiday season accounts for approximately 30% of annual revenue for a number of retailers and restaurants. It’s make or break time to deliver the highest possible service to consumers. You need to ensure that your staff is ready to handle the rush, both operationally and with regards to customer service. So how can you prepare your staff for the holiday rush?
1. Get enough people on staff.
If you want to meet the demands of the season, you need a strong supply of workers. With the busyness of the holiday season, there are a lot of call outs and missed shifts. People get the flu, have a last minute holiday party, or have to take care of their kids on winter break. The holidays bring with them hectic schedules both in and out of work. To avoid issues of understaffing, you need to host a large talent pool. This will ensure you have more people available to fill shits, so you always have an appropriate number of hands on deck.
Learn more about building a seasonal and yearlong talent pool here.
2. Familiarize employees with sales and events.
Customers will know every detail of your sales and coupons. They’ll come into your store prepped with the knowledge of how to save money and get the biggest bang for your buck. You never want your customer to know more than your staff. You should disseminate information consistently and frequently, so your employees always know current and upcoming specials. You can create a “cheat sheet” with the details of each event to distribute after a meeting, or you can share the sales features through an online portal. Whatever the method you use, be sure to communicate all the specifics clearly and constantly.
You should also share important dates with your staff. This includes big holidays as well as special events and high foot traffic days. Warning your employees of high volume days will ensure they prepare ahead to be available. Most employees in commission- or tip-based environments will be happy to know which days will give them the highest return for their hours. This can, in turn, make sure managers fill all their shifts to avoid understaffing on busy days.
3. Formalize customer service processes.
Do you have customer service policies in place? If not, now is the time to implement them. If so, revisit these policies to make sure they are updated for the holiday season. Formalizing service-based policies will ensure a consistent customer experience despite the rush of the season. It will also simplify your employees’ lives so they’ll feel they have greater control of the chaos. This includes concretizing the policies for returns, phone calls, sales conversations, and more.
This is also a good opportunity to get your employees’ feedback. Where do they feel the customer service process is lacking? Where could they use more guidance or stability? What technologies or processes would help them provide better service to their customers? Your employees are on the “front lines” with the customers, so they should be your first go-to when creating or revising a customer service policy.
4. Host training sessions.
Once you have formalized processes, disseminate those procedures to your staff. Make sure everyone is up to speed on the organization’s method of service and logistics. This can be operational, like opening and closing techniques, or service-based, like how to up-sell to a customer. Ongoing trainings, especially during the holiday season, can refresh and invigorate workers for the rush.
Still, training is a large time and cost investment. A new hire alone can cost up to $6000, not including ongoing trainings. Nevertheless, training investment will show a significant return—especially if you expect a high volume for the season. This can include in-person class sessions, online courses, videos, checklists, and more. Training doesn’t have to be intrusive in order to be effective. Learn more about training for engagement and retention here.
5. Promote teamwork.
One of the best forms of training is simply modeling behavior from a leadership standpoint. Managers and leaders should always act as an example of how they want employees to act with customers. During the holiday season, everyone is expected to pitch in and wear a number of hats. If you want your employees going the extra mile, your leaders have to show this first and foremost. Managers should be prepared to stock shelves, sell to customers, and sweep the floors; everyone, including the manager, has a responsibility for any and all tasks that need to get done.
Teamwork is the best way to make it through the season in one piece; and teamwork starts with training for cooperation.
6. Create goals.
Alongside team-wide trainings should be individualized goal-setting. Each employee should have his or her own sales and service goals for the season. What are they expected to do? Where should they focus their efforts for improvement? How can they beat their sales goal from last year or last month?
Take time to sit down with each person and create reasonable goals. When creating goals, remember that each person’s goal will equate to your total income. So, if you give 10 people a $10,000 goal, you’re expecting a total income of $100,000. In this way, you’ll want to build goals based on desired overall sales as well as employee motivation.
7. Reward your employees.
You’re likely asking your workers to go above and beyond the call of duty with inventory, staying late, extra cleaning, and the mad rush of customers. Reward them for all their hard work as they do it. Provide meals for them if they’re working long shifts. Have snacks and coffee in the break room. Have 5-minute employee social bursts. Host a holiday party to boost morale and team building. Focus on keeping stress levels low and engagement high; the satisfaction of your employees will reflect back to your customers.
The Bottom Line
Take care of your employees this season, and they’ll want to take care of your business and customers. Create formalized policies, procedures, and trainings, so employees are fully equipped to tackle any situation that comes their way.
The best way to ensure your employees and managers have a successful season is to avoid understaffing stress. Fill your schedule with a wide talent pool of flexible self-schedulers.
Sign up for Forge now to start hiring employees in preparation for the holiday season. Optimize your team; optimize your business.