"Deal-of-the-Day" promotions, such as those offered by Groupon, LivingSocial and others, are becoming increasingly popular among businesses large and small. This is no surprise, considering the almost immediate blast of new customers, and products and services purchased. Depending on the offer, it's not unrealistic for businesses to see hundreds or even thousands of individuals taking advantage of their deal. Sales can jump from a trickle to an avalanche in just a few minutes or hours, boosting profits and getting the word out on the business and what it offers.
And it's a relatively easy process for the business, as the deal-of-the-day provider usually handles most of the logistics of the process, such as distributing the deals to subscribers, managing and processing the purchases, and providing the appropriate coupons for customers to redeem.
Seems easy enough. And it usually is, except for one often overlooked area: The impact of successful Groupon campaigns on internal business operations, specifically service-based business whose owners and staff must now manage this major influx of new customers, phone calls, e-mails and appointments and reservations.
Business type plays a major role in determining if any additional preparation is necessary before launching a deal-of-the-day campaign. Retail and similar businesses that sell material goods and products may only need minor tweaks in their sales processes, especially if customers can redeem their coupons online for the products. If the individual must pick up the item in person, the business may need to assign an additional employee to a case or behind a pick-up counter.
The scenario gets much trickier when appointments and reservations come into play, since it's not as easy as accepting the coupon and handing them their purchased item. There're time slots, employee shift hours, overall business hours, support staff devoted to manning the phones and answering e-mails, and inventory of products needed for the services, among other considerations. And what about a business that doesn't require appointments and allows walk-ins. How are they going to manage these?
The ability of a business to adequately handle this increased volume in service can determine just how successful a deal-of-the-day campaign truly is. One thing it most certainly wants to avoid is disappointed customers, which is a real possibility if they're unable to quickly book their services. With that in mind, here are some questions business owners and staff should ask themselves as they prepare their operations for a deal-of-the-day campaign:
- Is my method of booking and managing customer appointments and reservations adequate? Do I need to look into a more efficient system? This sudden increase in bookings can put a tremendous strain on staff and office resources. A business owner would be wise to assess his or her current processes and determine if an alternative scheduling procedure is in order to automate and streamline this important task.
- If I don't currently require appointments and allow walk-ins, do I need to change my policy and now require appointments from all customers (or at least those who purchased your deal)? Unless the number of Deal-of-the-Day coupons sold is manageable for you and your staff, you'll almost certainly need to require appointments for these new customers. Allowing walk-ins for hundreds or thousands of individuals is simply not feasible.
- Do I have the appropriate staff resources to accommodate all these new appointments? Do I need to add additional hours to existing staff schedules and plan for overtime hours? Double-check your existing office schedules and make any necessary modifications to ensure you have the proper staff resources to accommodate all of these new appointments.
- Do I need to check my current inventory of items necessary for my services and, if necessary, stock up on these items? A business may have sufficient inventory for its usual number of weekly appointments, but not for the additional ones booked through a Deal-of-the-Day campaign. Products go hand-in-hand with many services, such as spas and salons, and you'll want to make sure you have enough of these items readily available for your new appointments and reservations.
- Should I customize the product in any way for the promotion, and have I laid the groundwork to enable such customization in the case of a spike in demand? As with any campaign, promotions typically maximize returns when they are customized for the particular audience. This could be based on many factors, such as season, geography, trends, news, demographics, etc. Be sure to think through any customizations that would help to make your promotion more successful, but spend the time pre-campaign ensuring that your production capacity is sufficient.
Deal-of-the-Day campaigns are a smart way to increase sales and name recognition for your business. But they can also be "too much of a good thing" for owners and staff unprepared for the sudden volume of sales. A quick analysis of your current capabilities and simple modifications can ensure a much more positive experience and lay the groundwork for future campaigns.