The Christmas season is almost upon us - and if you run a business you need to think about your telecoms over the festive season, and not leave 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 while still maintaining customer service. In this "always open" 24-hour/365-day economy it is becoming harder simply to close for the break.
So what are your options?
You could pay another company to answer your calls. But does that create the right impression for your company? When the call is taken does it sound like an answering bureau or are they offering a personalised service that adds value to your company? Can they answer your customers' questions or is it just a case of taking messages? If it is the latter how does that actually help? Someone will still have to contact the customer.
If you are keeping the office open with reduced staffing and there is a problem with the phones or internet do know who the suppliers are and do you have the relevant contact details?
Scheduling how many staff you need requires good forecasting of the number of expected calls. However, what happens when something dramatically changes the volume of calls? For example, a home insurance company whose customers are affected by floods.
One option is use telecoms technologies so staff can work from home if they are needed over the Christmas period. Modern phones systems and VoIP solutions usually support apps so that staff can have their office extension on their mobile phone. The advantage is that there is no cost of diverting calls and people can activate it as required. It is also cheaper and fairer to have people work from home for a few hours than sit alone in the office on a Christmas rota.
New year's resolutions
After Christmas is over it is also worth thinking about some new year's resolutions for your business. Here are some things to check in 2017:
Test your customers' experience by calling your own company. Often people's first experience of dealing with a company is when they call them and unfortunately it is not always good.
Is the telecoms solution you are using inhibiting the productivity of your staff? Does it allow for expansion or flexible working? Can people reach you when and how 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? Making it expensive for them to call you, for example with a premium rate number, may mean that potential customers don't make that call at all.
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 wifi signal and slow it down. Sorry - we don't want to be a Scrooge but this is from Ofcom.
Thinking about your telecoms now 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.
Sponsored post. Copyright © 2016 Dave Millett of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox.