Christmas is a few short weeks away and shoppers are preparing for it. As a business person, you need to be more prepared than anyone, as late shoppers’ desperation will take them anywhere and everywhere. The festive season is always filled with enormous numbers of shoppers, often more than any other time of year. People often take their leave days to spend with family, but it also might be the first time they’ve even had an opportunity to shop. Thus, you shouldn’t view all shoppers as merely being late, in terms of procrastinating. Instead, you should recognise that there might be these mitigating factors for their desperate attempts to bring joy to their loved ones through gifts. To help reduce problems, both for yourself and the horde of shoppers, you should consider interventions that can help manage crowds.
What is crowd control?
As Lavi Industries points out: “When crowds are ‘controlled’ everyone can enjoy themselves and a business or event can be more successful.” After all, in order to reach customers to help them, you need to know where they are, listen to them and so on. If all you encounter is noise, shouting and desperation, everything will be a mess. Order helps everyone, including customers though they may feel otherwise.
The difficulty is how to enforce order amidst this chaos. You have to rely on staff, who can become overwhelmed. It’s ideal, then, when hiring to look for those who are capable of handling themselves in tense situations, which is what every holiday season tends to be, especially in busy places like malls. Indeed, as the American National Retail Federation notes:
“For stores that do not have dedicated security or loss prevention staff, the on-site store team is
often tasked with coordinating, planning, staffing and executing the event. These staff
members provide retail companies with outside expertise and know-how that can be beneficial
in emergency situations. However, this arrangement can also pose some challenges. It’s
imperative for retailers to provide clear lines of communication, access to a top-ranking loss
prevention executive who has key decision-making capabilities and a store manager with
access to local law enforcement and the mall/property management company.”
But people can only get you so far. You must consider other interventions.
One of the most popular forms of crowd control, often used in the largest stadiums in the world, are turnstiles. Turnstiles are so popular there’s even a Turnstile band. What matters to you however is what a turnstile does. This is a mechanical gate that turns horizontally, allowing for individual entrance and exits, making for free flow of people. A turnstile gate can become your most important asset in managing a large crowd, since it prevents them from flooding in en masse.
In this way, people basically control themselves, since they cannot simply force their way through. Instead, they must operate carefully and thoughtfully. This slows down flow, which makes movement easier.
As noted, staff will often be essential. They will need to help customers faster and get them to tills and out the door. You should assist not merely by handling tills yourself, but by training your team in advance. Staff should know who to call, where products are, how to answer common questions and so on. Obviously, by virtue of being staff, they should already be trained in these. However, everything will be turned up to eleven so they must work faster and be able to react quickly.
One of the most common problems during the festive season is an increase in customer complaints. As Elaine Allison, a consumer expert, notes:
“From buying gifts, food, alcohol parties and everything in between, we all need the extra time and strategies – including the staff who are working during the rush. Most people are not on their regular clock and they are getting pushy and cranky out there. This includes service staff in any of those industries that won’t breathe until about January 5th.”
Thus, you should expect one cranky person to encounter another, as a desperate customer meets obstacles and staff who are overwhelmed by the numbers around them. You must establish protocols, such as having a senior member on staff available at all times. Don’t ever let it escalate to the point where a customer makes a public display and vows to never return. Instead, isolate the customer, speak softly and assure them any problem will be solved. Sometimes, all customers want is someone in some position of power to hear their complaints – they don’t particularly want a solution right now, as much as they want a sympathetic ear to hear their frustration. Be prepared to play therapist!
By taking these kinds of precautions, you can create a smooth transition from the normal year into the festive one.