The holiday season may be a time of fun and festivities, but for many home service contractors, it's the time of year to manage more work with fewer employees. Often, scheduling turns into a tug-of-war between meeting customer demand and giving team members (and yourself!) time off to enjoy the holidays.
In the home services industry, demand often fluctuates throughout the year. Some home service contractors, like plumbers, experience some of the highest call volumes around the Thanksgiving holiday. The challenge for many contractors is to find the right balance between adequate staffing and maintaining a supportive company culture.
So how do businesses in the trades handle holiday time? We're here to help you navigate the season so you can support your team, reduce holiday stress, and deliver excellent service to your customers.
1. Plan ahead for the holiday season
To successfully manage the holiday season, set aside your daily to-do list and take time to determine your staffing needs. Does your company typically get flooded with calls during a certain timeframe? What's the long-range forecast on your call volume and how will it affect business?
If you know when your company gets busy, consider limiting the amount of time off during that period. Some companies hire temporary staff to address labor shortages, but there's a risk the quality of your customer service could suffer.
Another option? Supplement your customer service with Schedule Engine, a leading provider of online scheduling and live voice and chat services for trade businesses. Industry-trained agents function as an extension to your business, making sure every call gets answered and customers receive excellent customer service.
"Schedule Engine has been a game-changer to our business today," says Michelle Micheletti, Regional Director of Marketing for Academy Air in St. Louis. "We wouldn't be as booked as we are, and our clients wouldn't be as happy as they are if we didn't have their partnership helping us."
2. Communicate with your team (and customers)
Communication goes a long way toward creating an efficient and happy team. At the end of the day, you're in control of your team's work-life balance, and their wellness should remain a priority.
To eliminate last-minute vacation requests, establish a system and prioritize requests, communicating how and when employees can request vacation time. Not everyone may be able to take the same day off, so consider a rotating system where employees can take off another major holiday, or take a specific holiday off next year.
If your company plans to operate under special holiday hours, make sure your customers know, so they aren't caught off guard. If you plan to keep normal operating hours during the holidays, let them know that, too. Consider sending customers a holiday email or postcard with your phone number (templates make this easy) so your company remains top-of-mind.
Don't forget to update your company's social media page, Google Business Profile, and other listings with your holiday hours, and set out-of-office notifications.
3. Provide customers with flexible online options
When you provide flexible and convenient options for homeowners to book appointments online, you increase chances for conversion. Plus, you help alleviate the workload for your customer service staff.
"Schedule Engine has reduced the number of inbound calls to a point where we did not have to hire a seasonal CSR as in past years," says Craig Sabol, Service Manager at Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning in Gaithersburg, Maryland. "It also frees up our current CSRs to find additional business."
Schedule Engine allows customers to easily schedule appointments online, leading them through the entire booking journey. With live chat, customers can interact with a home service agent to get personalized help.
Schedule Engine's online scheduling solution seamlessly integrates with field management software to automatically create complete work orders without time, effort, and attention from your team.
4. Support your customer service staff
An increased workload and fewer customer service staff during the holiday season can lead to higher employee stress levels and burnout. Whether your employees are on vacation or unable to travel to the office due to the weather, Schedule Engine Live Voice can step in when you need help.
With scheduling integrations and emergency on-call escalation workflow strategies managed by industry-trained agents, Live Voice ensures you deliver the best customer experience. You can adjust coverage on the fly when you need it, whether it's for the holidays, an unexpected staffing shortage, or an influx of customer calls.
Since your employees don't need to sort through messages or follow up with anyone the next day, Schedule Engine helps them improve their time management.
5. Remember what matters most
We all experience the holiday rush, whether it's finishing up last-minute holiday shopping or hosting a gathering for friends and family members. Take time to show your team appreciation for their hard work.
A little effort can go a long way:
Give employees a holiday card (or gift they can share with their loved ones)
Provide a holiday meal, potluck, or gathering
Donate to a nonprofit of your employees' choice
Most importantly, as Eddie McFarlane, a Senior Industry Advisor for ServiceTitan, and Jerry Rollins, Schedule Engine's Director of Training and Development, remind us in this Toolshed episode, stay mindful and focus on what's important. Then, you and your team can finish out the year strong and start the New Year off right.