Business problem turnaround: Dealing with slow hours

December 28, 2016

This post is part of our Business Problem Turnaround series. Read the entire series here on the Clover blog, and explore for more better business tips and tactics.

Business, by its very nature, is a cyclical beast, at times roaring to life with lines down the block, and at others hibernating for what can seem like a long, long winter.

It’s merely fact of life, but increasingly many savvy business owners are embracing the power of smart points-of-sale and the business analysis data they provide to turn slow times of day, like the post-AM rush at coffee shops, or slow times of year, like the post-holiday retail doldrums, to make the most of what have traditionally been simply referred to as a cost of doing business.

The great thing about all of the smart business intel that today’s point-of-sale terminals can provide is that they can offer pinpoint accuracy in detailing exactly when you’re busier and slower at different times of year.

But having the data is just the first part of the story. The real action lies in using that data to uncover the underlying reasons why those cycles might exist.

Knowing “when” is the first step to turning slow times around, but it’s not the the only piece to the puzzle. Knowing “who” is just as important.

There’s simply no bringing in new customers if you don’t know who the old ones are. It’s important to do some digging to find out exactly what it is about your brand customers find valuable. Ask yourself—or even better some of them—which new products would they be into and which would be a stretch?

It’s also important that you also do a little honest soul searching about your business: classic roadside diners are unlikely big-spend date spots, and neighborhood watering holes are an unlikely place for your city’s next hot disco dancefloor, so playing into what you do best while looking for nearby-but-untapped lanes is key.

With the ‘when’ and the ‘who’ firmly within your grasp, the next step is the ‘what’ you should do to move forward. Below, we’ve outlined several ideas to make the most out of slow periods at your small business:

Boost foot traffic with a surprise sale or timely mobile special.

Email can be good among certain segments, but for best results in promoting immediate action, push notifications are really the way to go. Sending a great special during slow times to the pockets of hundreds of your customers can help keep the grill hot and the drinks flowing during the long stretch post-rush.

Diversify your product mix.

Just because you’re a coffee shop doesn’t mean you have to stick to coffee. Get a panini press and some gourmet breads, meats, and cheeses to be the next hot lunch spot on your block. Or work to bring wine and beer into your shop and serve small plates to make the bistro transformation complete. It’s all about extending your brand in ways that your customers will appreciate.

Partner up with a like-minded business.

Scan your neighborhood and city for a business whose slow times align well with yours and consider co-location or cross-selling. These types of arrangements see business leverage differences in customer profiles and habits to maximize outcomes for two or more separate businesses.

Use downtime wisely.

Sometimes there are forces at work that are simply beyond your control—perhaps your location and traffic patterns make getting to your space tough for customers at certain times of day.

Don’t dawdle during your down time—spring into action by working smarter. There are a number of time-saving apps available with today’s smart point-of-sale systems that can make the work of one person seem like three. Find some that work for you and make the most of the time you do have.

[image: NYWCC: Gift Shop by Visit Finger Lakes on flickr]

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