Training Your Seasonal Employees in Effective Communication Skills Is Still Mission Critical
It’s probably your busiest time of year. It’s always an opportunity not only to make sales but also to cement new relationships, creating new customers and loyal followers for your brand to last throughout the year. Depending on your business model, however, you may be leaving most of these important customer interactions to those people who know the least about your company and its values: the seasonal employee.
With stress levels sky high and typical routines upended for the season, your temp team is often poorly prepared and yet saddled with the most responsibility of all. Holiday deadlines, unusual requests and complicated orders are the norm. When it matters most, your customer will depend upon them for a positive, successful experience with your brand.
Are they ready?
With training, they can be. Here are some suggestions to consider for ensuring your temp staff are part of a super successful holiday season.
Don’t rely on your holiday employees to just “figure it out.” Being friendly and enthusiastic is not enough. Equip your team not just with appropriate product and systems information, but also the communication skills to go with them. Make your managers available to this temporary staff, and encourage your team leaders to provide regular, frequent coaching sessions and scaffolding to ensure success. Schedule time to teach active listening skills. Give your newbies the practical tools they’ll need for handling conflict effectively, beyond just a panicked “I’ll transfer you now.”
Emphasize Active Listening
Regardless of the issue, studies show that customers prioritize the experience of being heard over anything else. Whether or not their problem can be resolved immediately is not as important as having been truly acknowledged in an authentic, meaningful way. And a reminder: that’s not about hearing a perky voice on the other end of the line, or having someone use exclamation points or an emoji in an email. That’s about being genuine, rather than parroting a convenient, glib response picked up in the break room. Impress upon your staff the importance of taking the time to listen, understand, and then letting the customer know that they “get it.” Sincerity and true connection always count most of all.
Encourage Seasonal Rehires
While you may not utilize their skills all year round, many times a seasonal employee will return the next year if they find the work satisfying. Not only will these rehires need less training, but their experience will only add to their performance this year. How to recruit? It sounds like a Jimmy Stewart holiday movie, but it’s true. Start with making your company a place where all your employees want to be, regardless of the season.
Surprisingly, multiple studies show that this kind of loyalty isn’t about financial compensation, either. Instead, it’s about creating a corporate culture where people feel heard, and valued for their unique skills and ideas. Empowering your team to be the best they can be will not only engender more loyalty among the year round team, but make your company a place where even temporary employees want to return, season after season.
Remember, while temporary folks may stick out like a sore thumb to your regular staff, they’re indistinguishable from the “normies” to your customer. In other words, they’re on the front lines with the same expectations from your customer for service, product knowledge, and experience as your year round employees. Invest in their training, and yield the holiday gifts of happy, loyal customers all year round.