The following is a guest post by Jim Joseph, author of The Experience Effect, on how brand managers should think about customer service during the holidays.
We are entering the hectic holiday season and that means one thing: shopping! This is make-it or break-it time for many brands and almost all retailers. It’s a scary time for retailers in particular. The lion’s share of retail sales and almost all profits happen in the last two months of the year.
Retailers handle this surge in seasonal demand by bringing in temporary help to stock shelves and serve customers. The problem is that temporary employees are often not “in the game” like permanent employees, which can damage their store in ways that retail managers might not consider.
First, we have to recognize that retail employees are the brand. Employees on the floor are the face of the company—what shoppers experience and what the retailer ultimately stands for; they are the part of the brand that customers interact with.
The truth is that the holiday season may be the only experience that many shoppers have with the brand. This may be the only experience that they know or remember. So it better be good.
An employee that is “off brand” doesn’t represent the brand well. When a temporary employee doesn’t offer the same level of service as the other employees, then the experience won’t be ideal for the customer, and the customer may get a bad impression.
Good retailers avoid this trap by:
- Training. They prepare “Brand Books” and “Training Guides” to teach temporary employees about the brand, store customer service policies, and provide rules of engagement on the sales floor.
- Enlisting help from permanent employees. Retailers should engage the regular employees to help train and guide temporary employees. Empower them to monitor and report behavior that is not “on brand,” as well as to correct it.
- Recruiting former workers. Smart retailers bring back many of the same temporary employees year after year, especially those people that embody the brand and have a good memory for what to do from year to year.
Ultimately, good retailers orchestrate the overall retail brand experience. They actively think about the experience that they want their customers to have and what they want their customers to remember about their brand. They hire and train for that vision. They put the best people on the retail floor (temporary and permanent) and cast their employees as if they were putting on a show.
Because during the holiday season, in many ways they are! Have a great holiday season!
Jim Joseph is the author of The Experience Effect: Engage Your Customers with a Consistent and Memorable Brand Experience, President of Lippe Taylor and Professor at New York University (NYU).
Coming tomorrow… Customer Service During the Holiday Season Giveaway: Buying Styles.