Ah, Blue Monday, the most depressing day in the most depressing month of the year, according to reports and – well – just about everyone. The third Monday of January is notorious for its unfortunate combination of time elapsed since the holidays, distinct lack of money in the bank and the relentless cold, dark mornings.
Throw ‘dry January’ into the mix and it’s not hard to see why so many of us are wishing the month away. Chances are, both customers and staff will be feeling the blues. With that in mind, how can businesses manage this challenging period and keep engagement levels high?
Positive customer emotion (it’s not just for Christmas)
The gifts, mince pies and general merriment of the holiday season might already be a long-distant memory, but businesses must continue to harness positive emotion.
This is no mean feat in January, fatigued from new year antics and attending our 5th meeting of the day. Our fuses are shorter than they might ordinarily be (which means it could take less than usual to turn into a Ranter). For example, a delayed train in the depths of January will feel infinitely worse than it might on a sunny day in June. A cancelled train on Blue Monday itself? Heaven forbid.
Let’s not forget that customers will also be bombarded with January sales. Their social media feeds and email inboxes will be chock-a-block with cheap flights, bargain sofas, 50%-off clothing, and ‘LAST CHANCE!’ marketing campaigns.
This all adds up to a competitive time for brands in all sectors, however, it’s the experience that’s often neglected. It’s an opportunity for brands to do something different. Focus on engaging customers at emotive points during their journey, the right interaction in these moments can be the difference between delighting or disappointing customers.
This is also an effective way to cut through all of the noise. If you create memorable experiences then customers will start to shout about it (think of this as your very own advocate marketing campaign). It’s important to remember that you should only engage in more creative strategies when you’ve got the basics down. Your customer journey should be frictionless, once this is consistent you can add those extra touches to create a truly Rave-worthy experience.
At the heart of this is customer engagement, the place where every positive customer experience starts. Gathering real-time customer feedback is key to making this happen because it allows businesses to act quickly. Choose the best engagement channel, whether that’s one of your top agents making a call to resolve the issue or simply a proactive SMS response, it’s in your power to do the right thing for the customer. We know that 67% consumers say the reason they switch brands is down to a negative experience (and 81% saying they’d have stayed loyal if the brand had taken action), this approach helps businesses to start the year right and improve customer retention.
Turning employee frowns upside down
Don’t forget the intrinsic link between customers and employees. Any change implemented for the benefit of the customer can also hold implications for your employees. They’ve returned from a busy holiday season or they may have worked through it too. A demotivated, unhappy team is incredibly damaging, especially in customer interaction, so what can you do to turn employee frowns upside down?
The way we see it, great customer experience starts at home – with happy employees. But the kind of dip in staff morale that’s understandable in a month like January (especially in service-heavy industries) simply isn’t picked up on by a once-a-year engagement survey. Businesses should be taking steps to improve culture and listen to their people all year round, capturing open and honest feedback. This is trust and transparency must be earnt. Then you can utilise always-on listening posts to give employees the chance to make their thoughts, feelings and ideas heard at any time.
Closing the loop is also essential. It’s no good capturing feedback from employees if you don’t let them know they’ve been heard and you’re taking action. A message letting them know their feedback has been taken into account might be just the morale-booster needed on a cold, wet, dark day, lifting staff out of their January slump.
Plus, having happy, motivated employees is linked to improved customer satisfaction, so you’ll be paving the way for Rave reviews from them too. The message for businesses is clear: start the year as you mean to go on by striving to deliver consistently positive customer experiences – and be sure to underpin that with an engaged and motivated workforce.