For all sorts of businesses, the festive period can throw a proverbial spanner in the works. Issues like shipping and delivery, staff illness and over-the-top partying all need to be dealt with.
Here, we’re looking at a few of the precautions you can take to keep your business ticking over smoothly, and how to avoid major nightmares during the Christmas period.
Tips on how to avoid common business nightmares during the holidays
For some businesses, particularly online retailers, shipping is a core component of the service they offer. The number one preventative measure you can take to avoid shipping problems is planning ahead. Know exactly when the bank holidays fall over the festive period, warn your customers well in advance that they may need to place orders earlier than usual, and ask your shipping company about their plans for maintaining service. One mistake that is often made is over promising on delivery dates. It’s far wiser to be realistic than disappoint your customers. In the run up to Christmas, introduce a ‘Christmas deliveries’ message to your website and email sign-offs to make sure your customer base knows what to expect.
The eagerly anticipated office Christmas party will most likely pass without a hitch. However, set boundaries around office party behaviour with a carefully worded email. Have the festivities take place away from your premises, and suggest that using social media to share photos is only a good idea if you have the permission of those who appear in each image. Make sure you’ve catered for everyone’s needs as well – think allergies, intolerances and interests.
Who gets which days off can become a real bone of contention, particularly for small businesses. One answer is to offer financial incentives to those willing to work the days around the festive bank holidays. Another is to offer one extra day of holiday to be taken in the New Year for every two days an individual is willing to work around Christmas. For some people this is a strong motivating factor. Alternatively, you could plan ahead and take on agency staff who can ease the strain as the annual leave requests come flooding in.
While Boxing Day and Christmas Day are bank holidays and most businesses will plan a complete shutdown, one day that causes some confusion is Christmas Eve. Office workers specifically often wonder whether they might be given it as a bonus half day, or at least an early finish. The most important thing is to communicate clearly – don’t leave your employees with half-made plans because they don’t know when their holiday will officially begin.
For many businesses it’s a dreaded nightmare – a flu breakout that takes out the bulk of your team just as the festive period begins. In fact, there’s not much you can do to avoid this misfortune other than encourage staff not to come in if they’re feeling under the weather. Soldiering on may seem the honourable thing to do, but if they pass on the bug to everyone around them the business cost could be significant.
Another slightly different issue is self-inflicted illness at this time of year. It’s important to arrange the staff Christmas party on a Friday or Saturday night and to make it clear that over indulgence is no reason for missing work.
Customer service/opening hours
The standard of customer service a business delivers during challenging times – for example when there’s a supplier crisis, during the Christmas period, or processes have gone wrong – is a marker of its overall standards. Ultimately, good communications are key. Send out an email to your full customer contact list before Christmas. In it, offer your company’s seasonal greetings and set out opening hours. Make sure phones are diverted so calls are always answered and set someone the task of replying to urgent emails across the full festive period.
Ultimately, Christmas should be as much a time of happiness and celebration at work as it is at home. While those few weeks may throw a few curveballs for businesses, with a little foresight and by putting one or two preventative measures in place, it’s certainly possible to have nightmare-free festivities.