Ah, the holidays... that wonderful time of year when families gather round the fireplace to drink a little eggnog, trim the tree, and enjoy one another's company.
For most of us, the holidays are also a very hectic time of year, especially the 12 days leading up to Christmas. And that's true even if you don't celebrate Christmas because 12 days is very little time to get the word out about your business's holiday promotions via a marketing campaign, and for getting business done in general since many businesses' hours change from December 25 till January 3 or so.
How do you reconcile the high-pressure needs of your small business with your family's desire to roast chestnuts on an open fire? Having a virtual phone service can help. Therefore, we offer up these 12 small-business phone tips till Christmas. Hope they make your season a little brighter.
Tip 1: Use smart call forwarding to carve out a little time for yourself
Small-business owners' time is precious, but during the holidays, it's even more so. With smart call-forwarding, you can— without losing touch—sneak out to do a little extended shopping, trim the tree with the family, or enjoy a holiday lunch. Simply forward your calls to your mobile, home, or other number, and you can answer as if you were in the office.
Tip 2: Record informational messages that answer repetitive questions
Rather than taking time to answer the same questions about which days you'll be working over the holidays or what your business hours will be, record a message, and make it an option on your virtual receptionist.
Doing so is extra helpful for businesses with holiday hours that vary greatly from the norm. Retailers can also use such messages to post updates on the status of hot holiday items.
Tip 3: Spur holiday sales by offering door busters
Add a burst to your ads, direct mail, and email promotions encouraging customers to call a particular extension you set up to promote the door buster of the day. You can even use different extensions for each advertising vehicle so you can track which ones get the most calls—thus telling you which are the most effective at driving customers to action.
Tip 4: Enable the virtual receptionist to greet callers during peak times
Many businesses still prefer a live person answer calls. But during the holidays, the high call volume can make it tough to answer every call promptly.
Rather than forcing callers to leave a message or call back when you again may not be available, use the virtual receptionist as a backup to provide a friendly, professional greeting and help callers connect with the person or department they want quickly.
Tip 5: Use voicemail transcription to scan through messages
Voicemail messages always seem to multiply during the holidays. Choose a virtual phone service that has the ability to turn voicemails into text, so you can have those messages sent to you via email or as a text to your phone.
That way you can quickly skim through them rather than listen to them one at a time. It's a great way to stay on top of the priorities, especially when you're out shopping yourself.
Tip 6: Give Santa his own extension
Businesses can get in on the holiday spirit by letting kids call to speak with Santa directly at the North Pole. That works particularly well if you have a toll-free phone number.
Tip 7: Put a Call Me button on your website
These days, customers often gather information on the Web and then use other means to make the purchase. Make it easy for them to call by adding a Call Me button to your website.
Customers click the button, input the phone number they want to use to receive the call, and are connected quickly—while they're still looking at the product or service on the screen. It's doubly important if you're a retailer without a Web-purchasing capability.
Tip 8: Make business calls while you're out shopping with the family
Be sure the caller ID appears as if you're calling from the office. With a virtual calling card, you can make outgoing calls at any time and from anywhere.
Tip 9: Use caller-ID tagging to identify business vs. personal calls
By assigning a unique number to appear in front of the caller ID of incoming calls, you can tell at a glance what phone number the caller dialed—your virtual phone number or your direct number. Knowing beforehand that a call is business or personal gives you the ability to choose which calls to answer so you can make more effective use of your time.
Tip 10: Don't stay behind waiting to receive a fax in your home office while your family heads out for a preholiday feast
Treat fax delivery the same as you do with your voicemail messages: Have faxes sent directly to your email, to access via your laptop or smartphone. Never be stuck somewhere waiting for a fax again.
Tip 11: Use smart call forwarding to offer 24x7 customer support
When customers need help during the holidays, they usually want it right now—even if it's 2:00 in the morning. With a small staff, you can't be in the office 24/7. But you can use smart call forwarding to forward calls to any phone you choose. Have each staffperson take a night to provide that support during the holidays—then advertise that the service is available.
Tip 12: Make your holiday bright
This isn't really a phone tip, but it's still good advice. Take the time to relax, enjoy, and refresh yourself for 2011.