Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, however along with the merriment come some issues faced year after year by a range of businesses. It is the busiest time of the year, so it’s important that these problems are identified and resolved before they occur, leaving you to focus on the more important aspects, eg profit and sales.

Here are some of the most common challenges businesses face at Christmas with tips on how you can overcome them.

Staff shortages

There are a few reasons why businesses may be short of staff over the Christmas period, the most common being disorganisation of annual leave. It should come as no surprise that many staff members will want to take annual leave over the Christmas holidays: the issue arises when several members want to take their holiday at the same time, leaving you short staffed during the busiest time of the year. Luckily this problem can be avoided if you prepare early on. Ask your staff to send their holiday requests well in advance, and once you have these dates plot them on a calendar and see if there are any clashes which need resolving.

The second reason you may find yourself short staffed over Christmas is due to the increase in business. With everyone rushing out to buy gifts, decorations and food, it’s likely there will be an uplift in foot traffic. As a result, you may find yourself in need of a few extra hands to make sure the festive period goes smoothly. This is particularly true for hospitality businesses such as pubs, restaurants and even hotels and B&Bs. Luckily, there are always plenty of people looking for temporary work over Christmas, particularly students. An extra staff member or two can make all the difference when you are rushed off your feet.

Keeping up with last-minute demands

With all the excitement that Christmas brings, it is unsurprising that consumers can become complacent and occasionally forget a few seasonal essentials, therefore forcing them to order or shop at the last minute. This can become an issue for businesses that can’t meet the demand due to running out of stock, being fully booked, or not having enough time left to post out orders. The unfortunate customers will likely become disgruntled and be sure to voice their grievances, however, each of these issues has its own simple solution:

Overcoming low stock

There is no way to predict how popular an item may be. You could always order extra and just hope that it will sell, but there’s a chance this will leave you with unsold stock eating into your profit margins, leaving your January even tighter financially than it needs to be. A solution that does not involve spending extra money is simply informing your customers of stock amounts. If an item is proving to be particularly popular make sure you let them know when you are running low, inspiring those interested in the item to make their purchases before you sell out. This can be achieved both online and offline. Online retail giant, ASOS, lets browsers know whether the item they’re looking at is running low in their particular size:

Alternatively you could give them the option to be emailed when an item is back in stock, this captures their email, giving you data, and according to a report by The Luxury Institute 71 per cent of consumers appreciate receiving notifications when an item that they had wanted comes back in stock, eConsultancy found that these back-in-stock alert emails can achieve a 25 per cent conversion rate, benefiting you and your customers.

Fully booked

Being booked out mightn’t seem like a big issue for businesses at the time, but in some cases, it may cause customer upset. Being unable to get an appointment/table/room may force them to go elsewhere, abandoning their loyalty to your business. Therefore, it is a good idea to arrange an email marketing campaign, prior to the festive season, persuading existing customers to book their appointments, etc. early in order to avoid disappointment. Doing this gives customers adequate notice and priority over new customers that may book.

Last orders

Good communication solves a lot of problems, and this is one of them. The issue of not having enough time to post orders to ensure that purchasers receive them before Christmas can be prevented if the consumers in question are given the last order dates well in advance. These can be displayed on your company’s website, on social media and/or sent in an email.

Small retailer and maker of pin badges, ‘Punky Pins’ lets email subscribers know what the last international posting dates are for guaranteed Christmas deliveries:

Complaints

Customer complaints aren’t exclusive to the Christmas period, but businesses can often find that there is an upsurge in them around this time due to the increase in the volume of business. Addressing unhappy customers can be challenging for businesses, particularly when busy, however they are also a something that cannot be ignored.
Acknowledging a customer complaint goes a long way to solving it. Your customers may turn to a variety of platforms to send negative feedback, for example social media. This channel is becoming a popular place for disgruntled consumers to air their frustrations. It’s therefore important to make sure that you keep with all your networks and ensure that all complaints, and questions, be responded to hastily.

As well as ensuring complaints are answered and resolved quickly, it is just as important to make sure that customers know when the business will be closed and, as a result, that emails, phones and social accounts will be unmanned for this period. Set an ‘out of office’ reply on the company’s emails and schedule social media posts to be released that let customers know you are closed and that you will get back to them when the business re-opens.

Neglected social feeds

In the peak of the Christmas period keeping on top of your social media posting may not be on the top of your list of priorities, but it’s important that remain active. Whether or not it really bothers you, it is a problem that is easy to overcome thanks to scheduling. There are free scheduling apps that allow you to set up numerous posts in advance on up to three social accounts at a time, for free.

If engaging consumers on social isn’t something you wish to spend time on, instead consider the accounts as a free platform to share vital information such as opening hours, availability and new products. Increasing numbers of consumers will turn to social media for this information so it is better to provide it.

Rafferty Gifford is a digital marketing professional at Liberis. 

Further reading on Christmas and small businesses

Does your business turn over between £50,000 and £500,000? If so, you are eligible for the new Small Business Grants initiative from SmallBusiness.co.uk. We’re giving away £5,000 every month in a free-to-enter competition. Apply now by clicking here. Good luck!

 

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