Whether you’re running a store, airport, restaurant, hotel or any other kind of destination business, the holidays are likely to be your busiest time. Here’s how your teams can deliver an excellent customer experience right through to January – and want to stick around afterwards, too.

If there’s one key factor in delivering high-quality CX, it’s your staff. Employees are the front line for customer experience, and can have a huge influence on both the day-to-day and long-term success of your CX program. Here’s how you can set the scene for a positive experience for both staff and customers this winter holiday period.

1. Prepare with your staff

Anyone who works in a customer-facing role knows that the holidays are hectic. For some employees, ramping up their daily workload is an exciting and stimulating experience, while for others, their fear and stress levels can be raised. Whichever camp your team falls into, employees can benefit from being part of your preparation for the season and contributing their ideas and experience to the holiday plans.

Whether it’s helping to reorganize a shop floor layout to make the most of increased footfall, coming up with ideas for events and promotions, or brainstorming ways to create a festive ambience, participating in plans for the holidays can help staff to feel more ownership and investment in the seasonal event, and less like they’re being carried along for the ride.

When you’re running holiday experience design planning sessions in the months leading up to the holiday rush, make sure staff are represented. You could offer a range of project streams such as decoration, entertainment, ways to minimize lines and wait-times, and promotional activities, as well as leaving an open forum for staff to come up with their own suggestions on activities. Take the opportunity to break down silos and encourage staff to get involved with an area of work they don’t do every day.

Using a digital platform to capture and organize staff feedback is a powerful way to speed up and enhance this process, and it allows you to add an extra layer of engagement by enabling staff to upvote and discuss ideas via a digital platform. Another benefit of digitizing your holiday planning in this way is that it’s scalable. However many people want to contribute, they can all have their voices heard and there’s no additional admin or organization required at a time when your manpower is already stretched.

The CX benefit? Your business reaps the reward of your team’s collective knowledge and skill, and so do your customers. They’ll be welcomed by staff who have a genuine stake in the holiday celebrations and will benefit from an experience designed by the people who are serving them.

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2. Retrain and consolidate knowledge

If the holidays are your busiest time, it makes sense to maximize your team’s skills and capabilities so they’re ready to deliver peak performance. Topping up training and offering refreshers on your procedures and policies can give staff the confidence and capability to handle extra pressure, and to deliver a high-quality customer experience even when they’re extra busy.

To make this training as relevant and impactful as possible, it needs to be based on real customer feedback and operational data. The more recent and specific you can make it, the better, so that both you and your staff have a clear picture of typical customer goals, interests, journeys and pain points, and you can concentrate your efforts where they will have the most impact and benefit. The material you use to shape your training could include things like customer survey data about a given experience, traffic patterns and visit duration data, individual customer testimonials and NPS before, during and after the holiday period. 

You may also be taking on new or temporary staff to handle the peak season. It can make sense to combine top-up training for existing staff with inductions and onboarding for your new recruits. Consider asking your existing customer-facing staff to deliver the training, rather than management or external trainers. That way they’ll benefit from a refresher on the subject matter and can start to forge relationships with their new colleagues at the same time.

They’ll also be able to share experience-based tips and tricks that may not have ever been formalized in your policies or training materials, but can make a world of difference during customer interactions.

3. Model great service

Employees who deliver high-quality experiences need to receive high-quality experiences themselves. Make sure your staff get the same standard of service and support you expect them to offer customers, and they’ll naturally be more inclined to extend the same standards to customers.

To foster a culture of great experiences that benefits both staff and customers, you can provide systems that make life easier for staff and show that you have respect for their time and energy. This can be especially relevant when staff are expected to work across departments and deal with unfamiliar processes. Things such as an easy and intuitive booking system for vacation days, or a chance to give feedback and see it acted upon, can pay massive dividends in employee engagement.

You can also model customer experience through employee experience by recognizing and rewarding your best performers. Staff who contribute at a high level and are strongly engaged with your business should be given recognition in the same way your best customers are treated as VIPs when they visit.

4. Offer strong communication channels – and market them internally

Your employee feedback channels can provide continual insight into how customers are faring at your business during the holiday season. They’ll tell you how morale and stress levels are at different times of the day, whether customer expectations are met by what you’re offering, and where miscommunications happen or customer awareness of products and services can be improved.

But to get the most out of these channels, you need to make them virtually effortless for staff to use, and foster a culture where providing feedback is second nature. For the first requirement, you need a system that’s accessible to staff at all times and is easy and intuitive to use. A browser-based platform can be a good solution as staff can use it on mobile devices even if they’re not in a desk-based role.

Getting staff to contribute feedback as part of their working life before the holiday period ramps up means they’re more likely to find time to do it when the pressure’s on. You can help support this behavior by internally marketing your employee feedback channels well in advance of the festive season. Use marketing channels like company email, intranet and printed promotions to raise awareness of your voice of the employee program and counter any potential objections such as concerns around confidentiality.

5. Recognize and reward success

We’ve touched on the need to recognize and reward outstanding performance among staff. But how do you do this in a way that’s inclusive rather than competitive? Rewarding the ‘best’ using measures like number of sales made or extra hours worked can backfire by pitting staff against one another or mixing your messages around work-life balance.

This kind of result-reward dynamic can also result in some staff putting the metric before the experience, for example by recommending more expensive items to customers who don’t need them, or speeding up to make more sales at the expense of customer relationships – tactics that will ultimately do more harm than good at a brand level.

Instead, focus on rewards and motivational measures that benefit the team as a whole. Marking the end of the holiday crunch period with a staff party or away day can be a good way to keep morale up and reinforce the sense of a shared goal. This can also be a chance to gather immediate feedback on how the season has gone as a whole, and what could be improved for next year. Getting this kind of feedback means responses will be more accurate and detailed than if you are relying on your staff’s memory of their impressions or emotions at a later date.

Having a mid-season check-in with your staff can also be beneficial. This will provide an additional way for employees to be heard and supported at a high-pressure time, and will give you a chance to revisit your holiday season strategy, as you’ll be able to receive feedback and refine processes based on the progress made so far.

There may be factors you hadn’t initially considered or couldn’t have predicted, such as unseasonably warm weather that changes demand, or a news story that impacts how your products are perceived by customers. Influences like these can be picked up and fed back by staff quick enough for you to do something about them, but only if you have the systems in place to listen and act on what you learn.

You can also look into rewards that link the employee experience and the customer experience together. If you’re in the hospitality or retail sector, this could take the form of offering staff holiday discounts on products or free travel, dining or spa experiences. You could also make the post-holiday period a chance to invite friends and family to share in employee perks.

Offering customer-like experiences as staff rewards means your employees get to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. They’ll be better able to sell and recommend products and services to new customers, plus give tips and ideas to those who are already engaged. They’ll also have a stronger relationship with your brand and feel able to share it with customers in a natural, authentic way.

Capture the voice of employees in your CX program

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