The holidays are over, but you can’t rest yet. From the last week of December through the first few weeks of January, retailers like yourself have a prime opportunity to stretch the holiday sales season. Shoppers armed with gift cards and returns will come to a store packed with deep discounts -- the perfect combination to impress new customers, increase loyalty and move merchandise. To maximize every return, you’ll need to prepare staff with sales and service in mind. Here, experts share common mistakes made during the crucial post-holiday season and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Letting energy lag. Your employees might be burned out but it’s your job to amp them up until the season ends and vacations can begin, says Bob Grayson, founder of The Grayson Company, a New York-based retail consulting firm. Bring coffee and bagels for breakfast and order pizza for lunch. Let each staffer choose in-store music for an hour. Arrange 15-minute chair massages in the breakroom. Stage raffles or sales contests with small prizes (such as gift cards) to local restaurants to boost morale. Host after-hours parties for dreaded duties like marking down merchandise. Do what you can to make things fun for your staff and shoppers will notice.

Mistake #2: Reducing staff too soon. You might be tempted to trim shifts after Christmas, says Grayson, but it’s important to keep ample help at the counter as well as on the floor to help customers who are struggling to find specific items or departments. Train staff to approach customers, helping them find what they’re looking for, fetching them new sizes and answering any questions. “It’s almost like having radar for a frown,” Grayson says. “Somewhere in that crowd there are going to be some unhappy people. Pick those up as quickly as possible and do something about it.”

Mistake #3: Treating returns as a burden. Face it – your staff could use a refresher on your returns process. Furthermore, they might not realize that returns aren’t just a chore, they’re a chance for new sales. “Many sales associates don’t feel confident they can convert a return into a sale. Show them how to do it,” suggests Patrick Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta Retail Consulting, Inc. Use role playing to model desirable interactions on the sales floor. Encourage add-on sales with pointed questions like ‘do you need shoes to go with that dress?’ Make sure employees are aware of all the bargains in the store so they can point customers toward the best deals.

Mistake #4: Failure to communicate post-holiday strategy. Don’t rely on computer modules for training. Meet with your staff in person to go over policies for retagging merchandise and getting it back out on the floor quickly. Stress the importance of keeping the store tidy. Give them permission to do everything in their jurisdiction to resolve customer issues without deferring to a manager.

“You need to communicate to your front-liners the lifetime value of a customer,” says retail expert Tom Borg of Canton, Mich.-based Tom Borg Consulting. “Their experience influences whether they’ll come back.”