Winter sales – local retailing’s annual missed opportunity – are with us again, highlighting how easy it could be for customer service hotshots to win market share from competitors.
The hot tip comes from Aki Kalliatakis, managing director of The Leadership LaunchPad, a consultancy called in by many corporate clients that need to warm up the relationship with their customers.
Winter’s a great time to light up the flagging relationship, says Kalliatakis, but the norm is for local retailers to run a humdrum winter sale with one or two specials and leave it at that.
Kalliatakis and The Leadership LaunchPad team identified the opportunity to snuggle up to customers at this time of year during research into service performance in various sectors of the customer-facing economy.
“The average service level leaves customers cold,” says Kalliatakis. “Sometimes local business even adds to the chill by using the seasonal dip in foot traffic to spring a winter surprise.
“For instance, in the past one fast food franchise decided this was the perfect time to bring in higher prices, reasoning that the fewer the customers in the store the fewer the potential complaints.
“In fact, the winter season is the time to hot up service-led competitive activity by delighting customers with warm human gestures that cost very little to implement. There are plenty of international precedents for this, but many local businesses simply stick to the annual winter sale formula and do nothing more.”
Builders Warehouse in South Africa gives free popcorn to children and their parents – knowing warm gestures are appreciated when the South African chill sets in.
Kalliatakis adds that in Chicago, known for freezing winters and biting winds, the Kraft Foods brand Stove Top provided heaters at nearby bus stops to keep its customers warm.
But a local coffee shop owner spotted how well shoppers responded and took out free hot chocolate and coffee to customers at the bus stop close to his store.
The idea snowballed and other shop-owners initiated their own ‘winter warmers’ campaign.
“Service-led activity in winter doesn’t have to involve hot drinks and food,” says Kalliatakis. “In South Africa, any initiative that brings a warm glow to the customer relationship will stand out because you rarely see red hot service across our competitive landscape.
“Winter sales should be the start rather than the only exercise to break the seasonal chill.
“Winter is already with us and the prevailing consumer mood is pretty downcast, what with high prices and a tough economy. It’s a wonderful opportunity to shine like a lighthouse in a storm; but I see no indication just yet that the average business has seen the light.”
About Leadership Launchpad
Aki Kalliatakis is the Managing Partner of The Leadership LaunchPad, a business focused on customer loyalty and radical marketing. Their work has broadened to include all aspects of service, marketing and sales, which are aimed at creating the highest levels of customer loyalty. Aki Kalliatakis assists companies to implement customized service and loyalty strategies, and is often invited to talk to various groups, and conduct seminars, workshops and training courses for his clients. They focus on better customer service and delighting your customers. They do this by delivering a credible consulting service in all aspects of customer relationships, customer management, customer loyalty and customer retention in a manner which delights and thrills clients and delegates