Keep your business humming during off hours
Mon 2 September 2013 - 4:56 pmeCommerce | Management | Opinion
Whether you are a business owner or a loyal employee, you probably value time not spent at work. As the old saying goes, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.
However, that saying was written before the age of the Internet, a time when online shops never close, and people can purchase anything they want no matter what time of day.
Shouldn’t your business be getting a piece of that pie as well?
Don’t fret that this idea means you’ll be chained to your desk. There are ways to keep a business running after hours without demanding robot-like dedication of team members. A little planning is all it takes.
A business that welcomes after hours
Your clients and customers will be happy to find that your business is ready to deal with commerce and/or questions in the off hours. Decide which route is right for you and your team.
Should you hire someone?
Some businesses have so many after-hours customers and opportunities that it makes sense to hire a person – or a few people – to handle those jobs.
- Evening/weekend crew – If you think you can make more money than you’ll lose in overhead by paying employees to specifically work nights or weekends, go for it.
- Human voicemail – Many companies have a person who serves as the “answering service” after hours. This person may not be able to answer specific questions like you and your team, but they will provide a human voice to take messages when someone calls after hours. Medical offices, for example, frequently use “appointment setters” to answer the phone and help clients set a time to see the doc.
Make use of auto-answering
If it doesn’t make sense to have a crew just for nights and weekends, you may want to opt for “auto answer” services. Set up a courteous voicemail on the phone lines that picks up after a certain time and encourages clients to leave messages. Then, make sure the calls are promptly returned in the morning.
As for emails, you can also provide an auto-reply message that will generate a response for people who email outside of business hours.
Make your website run itself
Of course, clients will be more than happy to shop or have questions addressed online if your company’s website is equipped for such matters. Letting people know that your site is “up and running” for business 24 hours a day is probably one of the best ways to keep business going at all times.
Of course, the type of business you have will determine how much customers are able to accomplish via website. But simply having a well built and user-friendly site ensures your visitors that you won’t let them slip between the cracks.
There may be a few times when you and your team simply must communicate with each other after hours. You do not want it to become a horror story of phones buzzing incessantly at 11pm. Therefore, establish a few rules for these instances.
What are the boundaries?
A few boundaries are helpful when it comes to communicating at night and on weekends. Host a meeting and ask the team about the best way to contact them when the business is closed.
Remember that their preferences may be different from yours, depending on individual lifestyles. Show your employees that you value their productivity and do not want to overwhelm their personal space.
Lead by example
Even if you are the boss, lead by example and follow the protocol for after-hours communication.
Employees will feel more confident in what is required of their position – and it will ensure respect and better rapport with your team – if you don’t send text messages after everyone has agreed on an email system.
Sometimes, emergencies happen and direct communication is important. Let your team know precisely what you mean by the word “emergency.”
- It’s a good idea to make a list of what constitutes an emergency, post a copy in the office and let everyone keep a copy as well.
- Make sure everyone is aware of the “chain of command” and who should be notified first in these instances.
- Use a different communication form – if the team agreed on emails for non-emergency communication in off hours, try a phone call for something more important.
Handling business on weekends and at night is important in today’s constant commerce environment. And, with the help of the technology available, the personal lives of you and your team won’t suffer.
About the author
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in personalized promo pens as well as other items such as calendars, bags, and water bottles.