Santa’s coming to town and so are thousands more customers. For plenty of businesses (especially in hospitality, financial services, retail and travel) the silly season is the busiest time of year. But some small businesses can struggle to deal with the extra customers, limited staff availability and overwhelmed suppliers.
So here’s your holiday survival guide to help you manage the rush and make the most of the end of year opportunity.
1. Prepare to be busy
Make sure you and your team are well prepared for the rush. Look back on last year’s figures from the same time to get an idea of how many sales or customers you’ll be dealing with. That’ll help you prepare your inventory and staffing levels. If this is your business’ first silly season, check in with your industry contacts and suppliers to get a sense of what you’re in for.
2. Lock in rosters sooner rather than later
Juggling staff on holiday and finding extra people to fill in is a real challenge. The key is to communicate with your team and organise work times in advance. Especially if your team’s younger and has spare time when school, uni and TAFE are off, they might appreciate extra shifts if you book them early (before they’re tempted by a holiday).
3. Help customers help themselves
Customers love to research before they purchase, and the main way they do that is on your website. So make sure you’re answering their questions before they ask them – update your operating hours, delivery times, shipping charges and return policy for the end of year rush. And you should be available on social media to answer the questions you haven’t thought of.
4. Perfect payments
If you’re selling over the internet, it’s important to check that your site and your payments platform are ready for increased traffic (and if not, time for an upgrade). Same goes for customers in person at your shop, make sure your EFTPOS terminals are ready to go and keep a backup under the counter.
5. Have a backup plan
Train all your staff on what to do if something goes wrong like a power outage or a computer crash. The last thing you want is money walking out the door because you weren’t prepared. You could also think about cover for business interuptions like a break-in or fire which can help protect your profits until you’re back on your feet.
6. Protect yourself
Australia has a lot of customer fraud compared to the rest of the world and December’s a peak time for crime, so be on the lookout for counterfeit notes and dodgy credit cards (both online and in person). You should also double-check you’re covered for things like theft, broken glass and vandalism (or update your insurance if it turns out you’re not).
8. Give back
Holidays are a time for giving and we should all do what we can. It can be as simple as a charity box on your counter, all the way up to donating some of your takings to charity. Helping others at this time of year makes your customers feel great, it’s rewarding for you and your staff and (if you want to be a bit cynical about it) it’s good for your brand, too.
9. Have fun!
Don’t forget that you’re supposed to enjoy the end of the year, even if it’s busy. Try not to take it all too seriously, which will help keep morale up when things get stressful. Find time with your team and your family to enjoy yourself, reflect on what you’ve accomplished, and get ready for things to be even better in 2019.