Your business is running at capacity. You are as busy as you ever imagined you’d be. Everything is good, right?
When businesses reach capacity, so much effort goes into keeping things going – ordering inventory, hiring staff, keeping staff, losing staff, tracking sales, making deposits – that customer service and implications for the longer term are over-looked.
So, what’s a business owner to do?
It is rare that a business suddenly becomes swamped. As a business owner, you likely see it coming. Even if you didn’t expect that video that you posted to go viral, you did post it with the expectation of drumming up business.
Here are five things that you can do to maintain, or even improve, customer loyalty during busy times.
1. Create alternative ways to serve customers
If you are a retailer and have a line-up at the till, mimic good grocery stores. Create an express line. Give samples to people waiting in line. Give a discount coupon to customers who have to wait longer than, say, five minutes. (The coupons may not even be redeemed, but you have made a customer happy). Even just having a sales person talk to the people in line, letting them know that you care will go a long way.
If you are a service business, make sure that it is easy for customers to receive support on their phones. 84% of small business who have invested in a mobile presence say that they see immediate and long term benefits.
2. Grant front line workers the freedom to experiment
A more conventional way to say this is “Empower front line workers to make decisions.” Empowerment is a buzzword, though, and can be unclear. What empower means at its essence is granting front line workers the freedom to experiment. It makes workers powerful and able to do what needs to be done. Front line workers see the customer experience differently than managers. They see what works and they see opportunities to serve customers in new ways. Consistency in serving customers is important, though, so how do you reconcile experimentation with consistency? A daily meeting of staff in which you jointly agree to try one thing new each day may help. The meeting could occur in the morning before you open or in the evening. The key is constant communication among your staff at all levels.
3. Don’t settle
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is lowering your standards. Whether you are tempted to buy lower quality ingredients because you have exhausted your current supply, whether you are tempted to hire every person who applies because your are desperate for staff, or whether you are simply tempted to not answer the phone, don’t settle.
Easy to say, hard to do. What’s the alternative? Look at your marketing mix. Could you reduce volume and make even more profit by raising your price? Could you automate some aspects of your business to create more self serve options? Can you adjust your operating hours? Can you create alliances with similar businesses?
4. Communicate with customers
Queuing theory is the mathematical study of waiting lines. Often, there is some randomness when customers arrive. When you have that “random” slow period, use it to circle back with customers and make sure they know you haven’t forgotten them.
Create a system to thank customers to let them know that you appreciate their business. This could be an electronic thank you note, a person standing at the entrance welcoming them, or a loyalty card. Communication is two-way though, so get feedback from customers. Find out what satisfied them and what needs improvement. You might feel that a busy time is not the time to do this, but you’ll find your businesses strengths and stress points and you’ll be able to improve.
There are so many reasons to smile. First your business is doing well and, hopefully, you are doing what you love. From a biological point of view, smiling releases neuropeptides such as serotonin and dopamine, which reduce stress. Your customers will react differently to you if you are smiling. As the song goes, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”