Are You Ready for Holiday 2009? What You do Today Determines Your Success Tomorrow.

It’s almost March. Do you know where your customers are? They are probably hunkered down waiting for the storm to pass. When it does, the floodgates will open and the shopping will commence.

Will your customers be eager to order from you when the holiday season kicks off in October? Or, will they have forgotten your great products and wonderful service? Times are tough now, but the upturn is just around the corner.

The steps you take now create the environment required to attract and keep customers. It is time to start planning so that Holiday 2009 is the most profitable season, ever!

It is tempting to stop marketing, batten down the hatches, and wait for everything to pass. If you choose this approach, your competition will leave you behind. A better choice is to use the downtime to improve your marketing and service so that it reduces costs and enhances relationships.

The first step is to complete a full post mortem of Holiday 2008. This includes an analytical review of sales and service. Most companies analyze their sales every which way without consideration to the service effect. The inclusion of this missing piece completes the puzzle so marketing plans and service levels work together to profitably acquire and retain customers.

The second step is to create an internal customer satisfaction index. Perception is more important than reality in the service world. Quick delivery of a quality product is not enough to guarantee a high index score or repeat purchases. Consumers want to feel appreciated and respected, too. The only way to know if perception equals reality is to seek customer input on a regular basis. This can be accomplished with surveys, forum, and one-to-one interviews. The information obtained is then combined with the analytics to provide a realistic view of service and satisfaction.

Common challenges will appear in the first two steps. Ranking them by required investment and potential return creates an improvement checklist. The third step in the customer satisfaction process is to plan the elimination of problem areas. Some challenges are easily resolved and should be fixed immediately. The rest require careful evaluation and implementation. The investment in the planning stage makes the execution easier.

The fourth step is to work the plan. Implementation is the key to every successful plan. This is where process becomes function and benefits are realized. Successful execution requires a systematic approach that includes continuous monitoring of the results. One of the advantages of direct marketing is the ability to measure cause and effect. This allows companies to test marketing plans and service levels to find the optimal combination and insure long-term satisfaction and profitability. It’s time to get started so that your customers are happy and Holiday 2009 is prosperous!

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