Christmas is fast approaching and if you started a business in 2017 this may be the first Christmas period you have experienced as a business owner.
It’s therefore important to starting think early about your telecoms and your customers over the festive season. If you don’t plan now, you may find that rather than having a relaxing festive break, you’ll be in a pickle.
We’ve asked telecoms expert, Dave Millett to explain what you need to think about to ensure your business runs smoothly over the festive season.
The need to plan your telecoms applies whether you’re a one-person business or a larger organisation.
Telecoms planning for the one person business
In the case of the one-person start-up something you need to assess is: will my customers still need to get in touch during the holiday season either for new sales or support issues?
Some businesses can expect an increase in calls – e.g. event planners for last minute New Year’s Eve parties. Obviously as a new business you have no track record to gauge it on.
The first thing is to tell customers what to expect – so that if you are planning to close up totally they are aware. But consider this carefully. Is that the impression you want to create?
Having an answering service to screen calls may be an option so that they just route the urgent ones to you. If you’re a small business and you only use your personal mobile phone, then turning it off is not really an option.
Now may be the time to think about investing in a virtual landline number with a separate voicemail (including email forwarding) so that you can monitor and respond quickly to calls without your mobile going off in the middle of Christmas dinner.
Telecoms planning for larger businesses
For larger start-ups it’s an important balancing act: ensuring that as many staff members as possible can have time off to enjoy Christmas and New Year with their families while maintaining essential customer service and sales.
In this 24 hour/365 day economy it is becoming harder and harder simply to close for the break. Four options you can consider are;
1. Hiring a service company to answer your calls
However there are important questions to have answered;
- When a customer calls will the person taking the call sound like an out-of-hours service or are you paying for a personalised professional service that sounds like your organisation?
- Will they simply take messages for you or will you be able to brief them so that they can answer at least some of the questions that customers will ask?
- If you pay for what is only a message taking service who will be sent the messages to deal with and do the important follow up with the customers?
2. Divert calls to mobiles
Call diverts to mobiles is one option. Alternatively if you have invested in VoIP – you could even consider getting people to take their deskphones home with them and working a rota system as to when they are plugged in.
If you are considering using this strategy it is worth doing a test run as some domestic broadband routers may not support VoIP or the internet provider has enabled something called SIP ALG which will interfere. The good news is this can be deactivated if spotted in advance.
This option also allows flexibility if there is a sudden surge in calls. For example an insurance broker in a certain geographic whose clients suffer from a sudden flood. It may well be easier to get staff to plug a phone in than head into the office.
3. Do people know who to contact?
Wherever your people are working do they know whom to contact if support on the phones or the internet is required?
Some suppliers will offering reduced support during the holiday season. If Christmas and New Year are important periods for your business you need to be sure that you will get the support you need if there are any problems.
4. A telecoms contingency plan
A telecoms contingency plan is essential, particularly if you will be trading on a bank holiday.
Imagine the Boxing Day retail rush. How will you cope as a shop, bar, restaurant if your internet connection fails? If you suddenly find you cannot take card payments or use contactless you’ll lose money and have a big headache.
One option is to investigate backups – perhaps a 4G router and sim card. These won’t cost a lot and you’ll be able to feel more relaxed knowing you have a backup in place.
The post-holiday review for all businesses
I highly recommend having a post-holiday review and setting some additional business goals if you need them for 2018.
Are your telecoms fit for purpose? Questions you should ask yourself include;
- How robust is your system?
- Does it support your staff to be as productive as possible?
- Does it make working from home an option?
- Are you paying the right amount for your telecoms?
You need to check your costs regularly so if you haven’t done so recently do so now. New Year is a good time to review and think about all your options.
Will your telecoms infrastructure support business growth?
If you are approaching the end of your first year of business you may well have been thinking about your plans to grow the business in its second year of trading.
Will the infrastructure you have in place support your growth or does it also needing reviewing?
Find out just how good your customer service is
When did you last call your own company? I suggest you call and find out how you are dealt with as a customer. If you experience is not as good as it should be – institute some changes.
This is obviously not an option if the business is just you, unless you use an answering bureau. If you use this service when did you last do a test call to them? Having tested them do you need to get them to improve?
And what about the fairy lights?
If you have been wondering why your wifi has slowed down a bit you may be sorry to hear that lit decorations can negatively impact wifi speeds. Sad but true.
While you still have time I strongly recommend that you review your holiday telecoms and customer service. That way you can relax, knowing that your business will be covered and your customers will stay merry.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Dave Millett who has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80% on telecoms costs.
Dave Millett is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and other guides he’s written to help small businesses, include;
- How to choose the right cloud phone system for your business
- Telecoms mistakes to avoid when starting a business in 2017
- Can dual sim phones solve a common problem for small business owners?
- Working from anywhere: live anywhere in the world, do business in the UK
- Buying a new phone system for your small business? Watch out for the ‘free phones’ scam