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A Customer is for Life, not just for Christmas.
By Caroline Cooper
Monday, 16th December 2013

How to make the most of busy periods and still keep your customers coming back in January and February and well into Next Year.
If you’re expecting to be busy in the weeks leading up to Christmas, or over Christmas and New Year itself this has been written with you in mind.
But most of the points are equally applicable to any business at any time when you experience peaks of activity. So if you’re a leisure, retail or hospitality business already in the thick of Christmas activity, a health and wellness business anticipating a surge of interest as a result of New Year’s resolutions, or a professional services business who recognises everyone leaves things to the last minute to get renewals, repairs or returns done on time to meet their Christmas or end of year deadline – here are a few ideas you could be mindful of to continue to meet your customer’s
And even if your busy season isn’t until Easter or the summer, the same principles still apply…expectations.
First impressions
Over your busy periods you might well have customers coming to do business with you for the very first time. So ensure you create great first impression and a reason for them to return.
Equally you’ll no doubt have your regulars who are coming to you because they know you, like what you do and trust you’ll deliver what they expect. Make sure you don’t disappoint, and demonstrate you appreciate their loyalty.
Maintain your standards
Just because you’re busy, don’t let this be an excuse for a poor customer experience, for inadequate service or inattention to detail. Your regulars don’t care!
Busy or not, whether it’s Christmas and you’re rushed off your feet, or your staff are taking time off, your customers expect consistency.  Anything less could be damaging for your reputation and potentially embarrassing for your existing loyal customers, particularly if they’ve recommended you to others.
Make customers aware
Customers are far more understanding of the situation if they’re forewarned of any potential changes to your service. For example, if you know that you’re likely to be busy at certain times of the day, make every effort to let your customers know this. If you let them know when the quieter times are, this not only helps them, it potentially evens out the peaks and troughs for you too.

Avoid disappointments
When you know something is unavailable or in limited supply, give people as much notice as possible either through your website, when booking or enquiring, prior to travel or on arrival to minimise disappointment.
Adding value
Whereas your customers might be looking for a good deal on the basic price, this doesn’t mean to say that people won’t be prepared to trade up to premium services or additional items (as at any time of year). Ensure your team are still in a position to make suggestions and recommendations, but they’re fully aware of what is feasible, and what’s not a practical proposition when you’re busy, so they don’t make commitments you can’t deliver.

Keep it simple
Nothing should be competing with your seasonal promotions so don’t plan any other offers or accept other vouchers during this period that undermine your potential seasonal revenue. Make sure your customers understand what’s on offer.
Give incentives to return

Have everything in place for the New Year and what you’ll have on offer that’s exclusive to your seasonal customers as an incentive for them to return sooner rather than later. Even if new customers are not prepared to part with their personal details (to add to your database) at the very least have all your information and samples ready covering any special New Year bonuses, offers or packages you’ve lined up just to them, product information, tasters of your services, contact details, etc.

Gather data
Of course in a perfect world you’ll also be getting their contact details so you can add them to your mailing list, but ensure you have some incentive for them to do this; maybe a prize draw in the New Year, ensuring of course it’s still relevant and something of value to your customers. Bearing in mind you’ll be busy, whatever you use for capturing details make it simple.

Keep in touch
Schedule some time after Christmas to follow up with your mailings. Keep your list segmented so you can keep your messages pertinent and personal.
Show you appreciate their feedback so you can learn from them what worked well, and what they didn’t like, so you can improve on it for next year.
Following up now helps to develop your relationship, and increases your chances of repeat business either during the year or at least at the same time next year.

Check your team are fully prepared and briefed to cope with the extra potential workload and know precisely what’s available and what’s not.
If you’re taking on extra seasonal staff ensure that they’re doing the best job possible to be ambassadors for your business.

Caroline Cooper is founder of Naturally Loyal who helps businesses to get more sales through their existing customers. Caroline specialises in working with hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses, helping them build loyalty through giving customers outstanding experiences and staying on their radar to trigger repeat business. She is author of the ‘Hotel Success Handbook’.

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