As the year winds down and we march toward the beginning of a new one, we don’t want to rush by a final group of beloved holidays. First, there is Thanksgiving, along with the Friday that follows it, which many people turn into a four-day holiday weekend.
This begins the holiday season, moving us toward Christmas, with giving gifts, time spent with family, and a nice break from school and maybe from work too. But before Christmas, we have Christmas Eve. Then a week later we have New Year’s Eve, where many people celebrate past midnight to usher in New Year’s Day and the start of another new year.
Before we rush forward into the joy of this holiday season, our celebrations, and our cherished traditions that surround them, let’s give some thought to your answering service. We will enjoy our holidays more if we keep our answering service informed about special holiday situations and expectations.
Here are some holiday considerations to let your answering service know about.
Special Holiday Hours
Although professional answering services do a great job of reacting quickly and with excellence to unexpected situations, it’s still a good idea to let them know if you change your hours of operations for the holidays. Are you closing early before a holiday? Will you come in later afterward? Let your answering service know.
Apart from retail and food services, most businesses close on major holidays, but if yours will be open—even on a limited schedule—be sure to let your answering service know about that too. Keeping them informed helps them to serve you and your callers better.
Although this focuses on your planned hours of operation, some businesses may make a last-minute change. Perhaps you plan to close at 3 p.m. instead of at five as usual, but the morning is slow, so you make a spontaneous decision to shut down at noon. That’s great! Let your staff began their celebrations early, but before everyone exits the building, put in a quick call to your answering service to let them know of this last-minute change.
Along with special holiday hours are the days surrounding them that you will be closed, even though you would normally be open. For example, some businesses shut down between Christmas and New Year’s Day. If this applies to your company, be sure to let your answering service know.
Other times, when a holiday occurs midweek, a business may decide to close the day before or the day after, allowing staff to enjoy a four-day weekend. Just let your answering service know about this change.
A related issue is scaling back staffing on certain days. Perhaps you’re open on these days before or after a holiday, but you only have a skeleton crew working and offer limited support to your customers because you expect them to have minimal needs during these times.
Your answering service can help you pick up the slack on these days as well. Perhaps you may want to let them answer your phone, even though you have some staff in the office. Just let them know your expectations for these special days, so they can best accommodate your needs.
Most businesses have some sort of holiday party or company celebration as the year winds down. Sometimes this is in the evening after the office closes. Other times these events happen during regular business hours, such as the afternoon before a holiday.
You may want to officially close your office during your parties and year-end events. Then let your answering service handle all your calls.
An alternate scenario, however, is to not officially close and let your answering service take all your calls, screening them for those that may need immediate attention. Though this will involve interrupting someone during the party, your clients and customers will never know you’re having a party—unless you tell them. With your answering service screening your calls, you can give them the illusion that you’re still open and effectively serve them even though your staff is enjoying a party.
Different on Call Schedule
Another thing that commonly occurs during the holiday season is tweaking your on-call schedule and process to better adapt to employees’ needs and work around their personal schedule and family celebrations. This benefits your staff and helps them maintain a better work-life balance.
However, to make this work best and not cause undue frustration for on-call personnel, make sure your answering service knows about these changes. If you forget to tell them, they’ll continue to follow your regular instructions.
Along with changing your on-call schedule and protocols around holidays, some on-call people may need to adjust their contact information. Perhaps you have an employee taking a work vacation, which means you can’t reach them at home if they’re on-call. Instead, your answering service will need to know the employee’s alternate number.
Just be sure that once the alternate number isn’t needed anymore, that you alert your answering service, so they remove it from the employee’s contact number list. Else they will continue to use it even though the employee is no longer at that number.
Though we typically think of taking vacations in the summer, the second most common time is at year-end. This is especially true with companies that have a use-it-or-lose-it policy when it comes to vacations. Often employees scramble during December, and especially the last couple weeks of the year to use up their vacation time. Of course, other employees intentionally schedule their vacation around holidays so they’re more available to spend time with family and friends.
Regardless of the reason why your employees are on vacation, be sure to let your answering service know. This will help them as they take messages for your staff, allowing them to respond with greater accuracy to the caller. For example, if Bob always returns phone calls the next business day, you don’t want your answering service to tell that to callers if Bob is on vacation for a week. That just makes everyone look bad and frustrates your customers.
Apply this to your small business
These are some of the common things to keep in mind when preparing for the holidays. You may think of some other areas unique to your business.
Informing your answering service of these holiday-related items enables them to serve you with greater excellence and empowers them to communicate with your callers and customers more effectively.
As you celebrate the holidays, may they be a great time of enjoyment for you and your staff. Taking a moment to keep your answering service informed will allow you to enjoy the holidays even more.
Contact us to learn how Apollo Answering Service can help you better manage your telephone calls any time of the day or night.