The secret to a stress-free Christmas and New Year

The run up to the Christmas season is always stressful with shopping to do, decorations to hang and an endless round of social events to attend. If you run a business, you also need to think about how you will take care of business over the holiday period

At Christmas some staff will inevitably want to take time off to spend with their families. You need to think about your telecoms over the festive season, and avoid leaving the planning (like the shopping!) to the last minute.

One of the main challenges is ensuring that as many staff as possible have time off to enjoy Christmas with their families whilst maintaining customer service. In this "always open" 24-hour/365-day economy it is becoming harder to simply close for the break.

How to provide cover over Christmas

You could simply pay another company to answer your calls. On the surface it seems like the perfect solution, but does it create the right impression for your company? When the call is answered does it sound like an answering service or will you get a personalised service that adds value to your company? Can they answer customers' questions or is it just a case of taking messages? If it is the latter, how will that help? Someone will still have to contact the customer.

If you decide to keep the office open with reduced staffing, what would happen if there's a problem with the phones or internet? Do staff know who your suppliers are, and do they have the relevant contact details?

Scheduling staff rotas requires accurate forecasting of the number of calls you might expect. However, what happens if something dramatically changes the volume of calls? For example, a home insurance company whose customers are affected by floods.

One option is to use telecoms technologies so staff can work from home if they are needed over the Christmas period. Modern phones systems and VoIP solutions offer services that allow staff to have their office extension diverted to their mobile phone. There are several advantages to this:

  • there is no cost for diverting calls
  • call diversion can be activated as and when required
  • customers have no idea they have been redirected
  • it is cheaper and fairer to enable people work from home for a few hours than making them sit alone in the office

New year's telecoms resolutions

After Christmas it's also worth thinking about some new year's resolutions for your business. Here are some things you could check:

Test your customers' experience by calling or emailing your own company. Often people's first experience of dealing with a company is when they call or email with an enquiry. Unfortunately for some customers the experience is not always good.

Is your telecoms solution inhibiting the productivity of your staff? Does it allow for expansion or flexible working? Can people reach you when and however they need to? Is your system robust?

Are you using the right phone numbers to promote your business? Are your numbers enhancing your image or detracting from it? Do you only have a mobile number but no landline? Are you making it expensive for customers to call you (for example, with a premium rate number)? It may mean that potential customers don't call at all and go elsewhere.

When did you last check the rates you are paying for telecoms? In fact, 80% of firms have not checked their bills in the past two years. With wholesale costs falling, many are significantly overpaying.

Finally, if you have hung up any fairy lights in the office be aware that this may affect your Wi-Fi signal and slow it down. Sorry - we don't want to be a Scrooge Ofcom claim that your festive decorations could be interfering with your Wi-Fi speeds.

Thinking about your telecoms upfront and making a few plans before everyone leaves for a festive break can really help to give you, and your staff, a stress-free festive season.

With thanks to Dave Millett of DRF Consultants.

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