While the holidays may be a stressful time for making sales and growing your business during the end-of-year crunch, it is essential to keep in mind that your customers are facing plenty of their own challenges. The more you can do to lessen their holiday stress, the better for both of you.
Here are three ways you can use technology to add value to your products and services while making your customers’ lives easier.
Bring the Checkout to the Customer
Long lines and wait times are top of most customers’ lists of why the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year. According to analytics software firm SAS, shoppers are willing to wait six minutes for every 10% discounted.
This makes it more important than ever for businesses to make the checkout process faster for customers—and to use technology to do that. Chris Bacon, a retail analyst, recommends using mobile payment devices such as Square or PayPal with a tablet on location, which sales staff can bring to customers, swiping their card and completing their purchase as soon as they select their items.
“Bring payment processing right to your customers, before they get to the checkout line,” says Bacon. “You’ll have shorter lines and a better customer traffic flow.”
Along with helping avoid long lines that might scare customers away or keep them from entering your store, restaurant or other service business in the first place, this approach allows your sales representatives to look up product information and answer questions on the floor, instead of requiring shoppers to find the register or customer service desk.
“Not only is this excellent customer service, it will help customers make quicker decisions on purchases, resulting in less congestion in each shopping aisle,” says Bacon.
Communicate the Details
Another major stress of the holiday season is finding a business’ hours of operation or worrying that a gift might not arrive in time. To help mitigate this, you can use technology to help communicate these details to customers more effectively.
A “Hello Bar” at the top of your company’s website, with these essential details, is a good start, listing the business’ headquarters address and store locations. You can also include an “order-by date” for when delivery of purchases can be assured. For other service businesses, consider posting current wait times or the best times to visit.
“Of course, the Hello Bar only works once the customer is on your site,” says George Anderson of web design service 216digital. “It’s also critical to communicate hours and order dates consistently across all media platforms, including Google My Business, email newsletter, and social media. Repetition helps reinforce these details, especially if holiday hours are different from normal hours.”
Unfortunately, cybercriminals don’t take time off for the holidays. “Rising global cybercrime [in any-size business] has become a critical issue for customer retention,” says James Piedra, SDN platform specialist at computer hardware firm Lanner Electronics, Inc. “Nothing can be more stressful than having your identity stolen and having to change your passwords for all your other accounts.”
Business owners have a number of tools at their disposal to help protect their customers and to reassure them that their personal information is secure. If you haven’t done so already, any device that can access company data should be equipped with antivirus software that updates automatically and alerts users of a threat. Follow best practices on payment cards, working with card processors and banks to be sure you are using the most current and secure tools (such as the chip-card technology, rather than the magnetic-strip payment cards).
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a helpful list of guidelines that any small business owner should follow to keep their company data—and their customers’—safe.
Putting these practices into place will help give your customers peace of mind and make their lives easier during the hectic weeks of the holiday season. Even better, it will create the goodwill that ensures their business with you into the next year and beyond.
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