As the holiday season wears on, excellent customer service becomes a bigger challenge for all businesses. Customers and retail professionals are under stress to make the holidays great, which can sap the spirit they need to create a wonderful experience. Many businesses face customer service challenges during the holidays they aren’t even aware of: Issues that secretly turn customers off and turn them away. These problems can cost larger companies millions in return business and prevent smaller ones from developing the kind of brand loyalty they need to stay competitive in the hectic world of retail. Let’s look at six ways that businesses turn customers away without even realizing it. While many of these problems are amplified during the holidays, they can sneak into a retail or restaurant business at any time of year. The most dangerous thing about them is how they can become routine, undermining your positive efforts on customer service.

1) Unprofessional Employees

Even the best employees find themselves wanting to pause now and then to socialize with their peers. However, when they become distracted doing this or find themselves talking about the shortcomings of the business – that’s when customers take notice. Employees should always be attentive to what customers can see and hear. Curbing all employee communication is a recipe for low morale, but customers must always take precedence. More About This: 50 Things Retail Employees Should Never Do

2) Inescapable Voicemail

You can learn a lot about your business by calling yourself on the phone. Most “phone trees” are designed to ensure the absolute minimum number of calls are fielded by human beings: That’s why “speak to a representative” tends to be the last option mentioned, and the option is usually assigned a random button so customers can’t skip to it. Redesign your phone tree to suit the customer’s needs, not your own, and they’ll be thankful. More About This: Businesses Hang Up on VoIP Phone Trees

3) Rampant Facebooking

Restaurants are a very common place for a Facebook or other social media update. However, it’s your customers who should be enjoying this, not your staff. Staff use of mobile devices or social media during work hours tends to signal disengagement. Employees should understand that, though they might be accustomed to bringing their phones everywhere, the only appropriate time to use them is during break – unless a customer wants to take a selfie. More About This: 5 Reasons to Stop Checking Facebook at Work

4) Inconsistent Performance

The consistent aspects of your store’s performance are the things you build your brand on. Word of mouth is built on those things, too! If you advertise excellent customer service, your visitors will hold you to that: The same is true of any selling point, such as the lowest prices around. Whatever you choose as the cornerstone of your performance, make sure everyone on your team is aware of it and makes it their first concern when addressing the public. More About This: Why Consistency is the Key to Profitable Customer Service

5) Failure to Greet and Welcome

Although the business with the most famous “greeters” is probably Walmart, more enterprises are making it the job of specific employees to ensure each visitor gets personal attention. While there may be one or two retail customers a day who just want to “get in and out” with little interaction, most will be displeased if they don’t get a courteous and enthusiastic reaction from staff – especially at a restaurant, where the waitstaff is central to the experience. More About This: Five Greetings That Boost Sales to Walk-In Customers

6) Failing to Improve

No matter how good your business did this quarter, no matter how well your team performed today, the key to sustainable growth is continuous improvement. Make sure you are always looking for ways to learn from mistakes, build rapport with customers, and develop a sense of trust that runs from management to staff to each one of your visitors. If customers notice that you are not acting on their concerns, they will find a business that does. More About This: “If It Ain’t Broke, You Ain’t Looking Hard Enough”