Are your employees prepared for the holiday stretch run?

The holiday season is a crucial time of year for many businesses. Most Americans, even in a down economy, are willing to spend in order to purchase gifts, satisfy their loved ones and engage in the holiday spirit.

The holiday season is a crucial time of year for many businesses. Most Americans, even in a down economy, are willing to spend in order to purchase gifts, satisfy their loved ones and engage in the holiday spirit.

However, if a store provides a customer with a negative experience, the bad taste could linger in their minds long after their holiday shopping is over.

For example, a recent American Express study found that about 80 percent of Americans didn't follow through on intended purchases because of poor customer service experiences.

Furthermore, six in 10 respondents felt businesses hadn't increased their focus on providing quality service for holiday shoppers, while more than 50 percent said they've been forced to speak to a store's manager because they lost their temper with an employee.

"The holidays might be the only time you get that customer in the store. You have to leverage that one-time encounter," said Richard Shapiro, founder and president of the Center for Client Retention in New Jersey, as quoted by the News Tribune. "It's important to engage them. You can’t lose those people. Business is too hard to get.”

Some reasons for the failures? Employees may be overworked due to long holiday hours, or seasonal workers may be poorly trained or uneducated about a store's goods and services.

Conversely, researchers found that if a company provided top notch consumer service, it would prompt them to spend an average of 13 percent as well as increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

One tactic stores should be careful with is the exceedingly long laundry list of questions they bombard customers with at the point of sale. These include asking for phone numbers and zip codes, if he or she is a rewards member or if the person would like to save a certain percentage by signing up for a store credit card. Because many businesses are now using sophisticated business intelligence software, this information can go a long way toward providing customers with the best service.

However, privacy and intrusiveness issues remain.

"I think the consumer ... is feeling put off by all these intrusive questions," Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C., told the media outlet. "I tell consumers: Think twice before you speak. Why do they want this information and what is it going to be used for?"