The busy holiday selling season can become an exhausting existence of work, work, and more work—and this is especially true as you make your way into the final week before the big celebrations. Yes, you've been going a hundred miles an hour to keep up with the holiday demands while you've committed yourself to not miss a single customer order or on-time delivery. That’s all great, of course, but have you lost sight of another as-important thing? It’s possible that as you were working feverishly to wrap up, you’ve become less connected to your customers. Here are a few things you can do to be sure that you're not falling into the hole where your customers have become nameless and you have unwittingly become out-of-reach to them during the mad dash to the finish.
Make every order personal
The first (and easiest) way to stay connected is to connect at the outset. As simplistic as it sounds, when you acknowledge your customers by name, you build that connection. So, as you’re fulfilling customer orders, simply jot a note on the correspondence that says, “Thank you, Jane, for your order. Enjoy the holidays!” That doesn’t seem like much of a difference-maker, but it is. It will likely elicit a smile from your customer and let them know that you took the time to reach out personally. So, first order of staying connected is to be connected with each and every order.
As simplistic as it sounds, when you acknowledge your customers by name, you build that connection.
Let them know where you'll be
OK—so we’ll now assume that you have connected with your customers at the time of fulfilling orders. They’ll probably want to come back and order from you again, but will you be there when they return? During the holidays, it’s pretty much expected that people will be away to enjoy the festivities (and, yes, that goes for businesspeople, too). But rather than have a customer reach out and not receive any sort of response, anticipate their visit by letting them know when you’ll be available and when you won’t during the season. All you need to do is post a holiday hours schedule wherever you sell. Customers will see your availability, essentially having their expectations set and never left to wonder why you haven’t responded immediately to any of their inquiries. Make no mistake: this is a very important step in your stay-connected campaign; letting customers know where you’ll be is proof of your commitment to stay in communication with them.
Commit to check in amid the celebrations
Not to be a party-pooper, but it’s important to take the time to follow up on your business activity even when you’re enjoying the holidays. You needn’t work through the celebrations, but it’s a good move to carve out an hour or so just to check in to be sure that all is well. If there are urgent inquiries, you can address those quickly and likely delight a customer who might be surprised to receive a response. Even if you can’t fully address an issue, just a quick communication that you’ve received the message goes a long way with your customers. It shows that you’re staying connected even during one of the busiest times of the year.
Letting customers know where you'll be is proof of your commitment to stay in communication with them.
Make use of automated responses
Think of all the ways your customers reach you and make sure you have a way of letting them know your availability during the season. You’ve already posted your availability—that’s good—but follow that up with auto-respond emails and phone answering machine greetings. In whatever way your customers can reach you, be sure to have information about when you can get back to them (and when you can’t). Again, the mere fact that you let them know your availability will go a long way, as opposed to leaving them hanging on the line.
Start off the new year on a first-name basis
If you take these simple-yet-important steps to stay connected with your customers, you’ll be demonstrating your commitment to doing good business and taking all steps possible to stay connected. And, by utilizing the methods described here, you’ll do even more: you will have connected directly with each customer, establishing a first-name relationship with them. After the holidays have passed, you’ll be poised to start the new year on good footing with each of them. That’s probably one of the best ways to stay connected for the entire year to come.
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
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