Businesses love the busy seasons.
For many this is represented by November and December – but often many organizations find that they have a real uptick during the summer months as well. When you think about amusement parks, zoos, home improvement, and the construction industry, their sales mimic the temperatures as they climb in the months of May and June.
Due to the business model of most organizations. busy periods represent high stakes when it comes to delivering both to the Guest and the bottom line.
So if you find that you are coming into a time of year that will be particularly challenging and busy, remember these 4 concepts to help you drive success when it matters most. It really doesn’t matter whether it is Black Friday or Christmas in July, these strategies work anytime.
Plot the Timeline There are any number of things that have to happen for the busy season to be successful. There is hiring your work force, training them to do their jobs, and ordering your products or raw materials. You have to ensure that your stores are ready, promotions designed, and the organization prepared for the push. The first thing you have to do is target when you need to be ready and then plan everything back from this date. This timeline will be the core of the strategy for success. Once you have this plotted, you will need to start adding in milestone accomplishments. One of these milestones might be a fully trained work force. Think about it in reverse order like this: You may need a full team in place by July, which means you’ll need to recruit in April. This allows you to interview and hire in May so that they can train in June. Each of the milestones will inspire a chain of work or activities needed to achieve the goal and thus allow you to begin working with the team to accomplish. Keeping your team involved in the planning process will allow them to help populate the timeline and ensure their buy in so that nothing is missed.
Train and Inspire Teamwork Your team needs to be well prepared for the busy season. Customers are very sensitive when organizations appear unprepared for the natural ebb and flow of their business. This means that you will not only need to be ready, but your teams need to be ready as well. That goes back to a core tenant, which is that associates should never practice on Guests. Be sure that your team understands their job duties and is also ready to lend a hand where needed. When things get busy, teams need to naturally embrace teamwork. While this should be a pillar of your daily culture, it is never so important as when things start getting busy. I see teamwork at best-in-class grocery stores all the time. Think about the baggers who move from aisle to aisle and the cashiers who pitch in with their colleagues when they don’t have a Guest. Leaders need to not only inspire this kind of thinking, but live it as well. Jumping in to assist the front line when needed and then knowing when to step out is key to great situational leadership as the busy season kicks in.
Take Advantage of Scale Great companies know that they have to take advantage of their peak seasons to ensure profitability for the entire quarter or year. There are always going to be natural peaks and valleys to business – but those who don’t over perform during the busy times aren’t as well positioned to take advantage of the lean times. You may find yourself understaffed during your less busy times because you overstaffed when you were busiest, leaving you upside-down in your budget. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t staff or stock your business when you are busy, but do so smartly. Don’t spend wastefully just because times are good – that will not set you up to keep service robust during the slower times.
Set Expectations Teams need to understand what the expectations are for service when things get busy. Often there is a “get it done no matter what” mentality that takes hold, which seldom leads to amazing, personalized service experiences. Prepare your team for your busy time and make sure they know how much you appreciate the hard work they are about to put in. Make sure you prepare your newer folks for this time, since it may be their first experience with this volume of business. Keep attitudes positive, reward those who are living your values, and make sure everyone knows that together you will all win. But above all, keep reinforcing the expectation for fast, but very friendly, Customer service. Your Guests will appreciate the speed and not being trapped in a slow line, but they will also value the warm smile and thank you they receive during their visit.
Keep in mind that as a leader, it is your role to champion these concepts and live them every day.
Your team will be looking to you as a calm, decisive voice when things are at their busiest. They will need you to reaffirm the sense of urgency, but also keep a level head and not panic when there are lines and high volume days.
Whether you are directly facing the Guest in your business or supplying those who do, be prepared to deliver at an even higher level when your business faces its peak season.
That will prepare you win by treating your Guests like cherished friends.
Tony Johnson -Guest Experience Leader-
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