With the holiday season in full swing, we've come up with five tips to help your business stand apart from the rest this Christmas.
Whether you're planning to shut up shop over Christmas or not, the key to a successful and stress-free holiday period is to be as prepared as you can.
Try to make a plan for any unexpected events. Whether you're a plumber who's on call for Boxing Day, or a mobility company helping take the pressure off hospitals over Christmas, it's good to have contingency plans in place in case a staff member calls in sick, for instance, or weather issues that could create problems.
If you are planning to close over the festive period, don't forget about security. Many premises will be empty with no supervision on Christmas Day and could become a target for thieves, so it's essential you lock up properly and precautions to protect your equipment and assets. That goes for business vehicles, too - make sure no tools or valuables are left unsecured.
Update your website, social media, Google My Business account and Which? Trusted Trader profile with your opening times over the holidays to keep your customers informed.
Setting up out of office emails is an easy way to let customers know when they are likely to get a response from you, and you can also leave them instructions on how to get in touch if their query is urgent. You can also plan ahead and update your email signature throughout December to include your opening hours during the festive period, this will give your customer plenty of notice.
Learn how to promote your business and keep customers informed about your opening times and more with our guide to using Google My Business.
Christmas is the perfect time to show your customers that your business has heart and personality, while also informing them about the services you offer, as well as any upcoming deals or interesting products.
Some of the easiest ways to do this is to engage with your customers on social media, or through newsletters with a fun and festive twist.
Perhaps could get your social media followers to take part in competitions, such as 'best-dressed Christmas tree', where you can interact with them if they share their own pictures? Or maybe you could send out a special Christmas-themed newsletter to get them excited about what your business has to offer?
There are lots of options, so don't be afraid to give one a go.
Depending on your industry, you might find the end of the year is traditionally your quiet time. If that's the case, this can be a fantastic opportunity to invest more time in your customer relationships.
This includes things like replying to customer reviews on your Which? Trusted Trader profile, along with any reviews, comments or questions that have come in on social media, through your website or over email. You could also follow up on previous jobs to see if people were happy with your service.
Taking the time to do this can really pay off; if a customer feels valued, they're more likely to recommend you to people they know, and choose to come back to you again in future.
Work on getting your business to stand out on Google by following our SEO checklist.
With the new year just around the corner, it's helpful to have a plan in place for anything you need to do or get ready for in January and beyond.
What obligations and commitments has your business made for January? Is there anything you could start or organise now to make the process easier? There may be a large contract that's up for renewal, a full kitchen to install, or simply the need to set time aside to complete your self-assessment tax return before the 31 January deadline.
While you should definitely spend the holidays enjoying a welcome break, just a little time set aside to look ahead can give you extra peace of mind.
To help beat the tax deadline, read our expert guide on how to complete your self-assessment tax return.
We caught up with several of our Which? Trusted Traders to see what preparations they put in place for the festive period and how to plan for the New Year…..
What challenges does the Christmas break present to your business?
KJM Windows & Conservatories said “Our industry generally shuts down for the best part of two weeks over the Christmas break. We are not normally asked to install products in people's homes during this time and sales calls are non-existent, so we take this opportunity to have a proper break. Any sales enquiries can be dealt with online or via a redirected telephone call, so we even close the showroom”.
Other industries are required to continue operating to ensure no customers are left in a vulnerable position. Tincknell Heating being one of those, had this to say about the challenges that face them “As a well-established business, we have many loyal, long-standing customers, some of which are elderly and vulnerable and would struggle without heating in cold weather. Trying to ensure we have adequate cover for boiler emergencies over Christmas can be difficult - we want to make sure our customers are well looked after but we also want our staff to enjoy the Christmas period with their friends and family”.
What about emergencies over the holiday period?
Heatable, an online boiler retailer and installer, said "Emergency visits are part and parcel of undertaking heating and plumbing works.
Speedy resolutions are a priority for us year round, but of course there is an additional emphasis on this over the holiday period. We don’t want anyone's turkey to double up as a radiator.
We’re blessed with a loyal and dedicated network of engineers, allowing us to keep a year round skeleton crew (previously reserved for Halloween), enabling us to get out to emergency visits at this time of year as quickly as we usually would”
How are you preparing for Christmas this year?
When asked how they are preparing, Horsford Window & Conservatory Co Ltd said they prepare by organising their deliveries so when they return to work we can pick up where we left off before Christmas and Ebor Mobility are implementing video and telephone support lines to support their customers during this time.
Is there any advice you have for other Which? Trusted Traders on managing the Christmas period?
Heatable’s advice is “Having been through the Which? Accreditation process ourselves, we can safely assume any fellow members would be more than adequately prepared.
For us though, the most important thing has been to ensure our team is well rested, rewarded and refreshed for the year ahead. A free bar at a Christmas party also goes a long way.”
And In’N’Out Autocentres advised to “plan your resources to make sure you have sufficient cover and enough members of the senior management team are available”
The consistent message from all the businesses we spoke to was making sure that staff are well looked after and enjoy a well deserved break, ready to come back, raring to go in the New Year - Tincknell Heating summed this up perfectly “Try and have fun if you can - no-one really wants to be at work but sometimes it's necessary. If you can make it fun, it doesn't seem so bad. Customers remember well if you can help them out when they really need it!”