The kids were barely back to school before the first ‘Celebrate Christmas for £9.99!’ posters started to appear, and with November now upon us, consumer appetite for all things festive is going to start accelerating.
The Christmas party market is currently believed to be worth around £1billion, so even in challenging financial times, there is a huge opportunity for operators with a strong offer. While competition is tougher than ever and the market is unlikely to grow this year, there is certainly a chance to increase market share.
For a customer experience management (CEM) professional like me, it’s not only this commercial potential that is exciting, but also the huge amounts of intelligence that will be collected over the Yuletide period, which will provide pointers for quick fixes this year, as well as more strategic planning for 2013.
A great CEM programme will deliver insight into which elements of hospitality have a link to customer loyalty and thereby repeat business. However, at Christmas, your regular guests might have a very different agenda from their regular visits and what is usually important may go out of the window.
- Food quality might not be as important as ‘ease of ordering’ for a party of disparate work colleagues who would never normally break bread together (I am not describing the Empathica Christmas party here…).
- Whoever is the office party organiser will want things to run smoothly and keeping it simple may well pay off.
- Budgets may be tight but a classic Christmas dinner with all the trimmings – and no washing up – could well be worth paying for.
Learning from past years across the sector, three interesting areas to monitor are:
1. Server attitude underpins the experience
You may have hired plenty of seasonal staff to support the rush, but if they are not happy dealing with customers, you may have made things worse, not better. How are you going to ensure that they are supported by experienced team members to deliver a level of service that is your customers expect?
2. Menu design can have unexpected effects
You have differentiated your brand’s Christmas dinner with a delicious chestnut stuffing, which people loved in your test kitchen. Have you tested it in a real kitchen? If not, are you sure that its unique preparation process won’t put the kibosh on everything else? We have seen organisations scrap dynamite new ideas after a couple of days because their service speed scores are so badly affected. Make sure you’re watching this closely.
3. The festive spirit
Even the most abstemious of us enjoy a drink at Christmas. Are your team switched on to taking the maximum number of drinks orders, and upselling? There are lots of people to serve, but taking the time to take a drinks round can make the difference between a good and bad office party, and future loyalty. And turning an order of a couple of bottles of wine into a couple of bottles of prosecco can make your guests’ evening and increase your take (done responsibly, of course). Have you got measures to enable you to monitor availability and upsell?