The holiday season is the busiest time of year for many businesses, and 2022 is set to be a record-breaking year for retail and ecommerce stores. 2022 US holiday retail sales are expected to reach $1.3 trillion, a 3.3% increase over 2021. Meanwhile, holiday ecommerce is expected to grow by a massive 15.5% to $236 billion.

Regardless of your industry, your business’s phone lines are likely to be busy as well. This article will explain how to optimize your phone lines for the holiday season, including how to handle increased call volume, and how to keep your lines open during peak times.

1. Figure out why customers are calling you and adapt your strategy accordingly

For many businesses, an influx of calls over the holiday season means that more customers want to buy things. However, this isn’t always the case. For instance, a problem with your website might be leaving your customers confused, leading them to call you to ask for assistance.

Taking notes of why customers are calling can help you to adapt your strategy accordingly. If you notice you’re consistently getting calls about the same topics, you might also consider implementing a ‘Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)’ section on your website to try and answer customer questions more efficiently and reduce the number of calls.

2. Include a custom voicemail greeting

Often, your voicemail will be the first thing your colleagues, clients, and customers hear directly from your business, which sets the tone for how people perceive it.

Automated voicemail greetings help to improve the credibility of your business and demonstrate competency. You can also use voicemail greetings to encourage callers to stay on the line and leave a message so you can get back to their query later.

3. Hire a dedicated staff member to answer calls

Hiring a dedicated staff member to take care of calls ensures that there is always someone available to handle the phone, and frees up the rest of your staff to carry out their work as normal.

You can also designate backup workers to assist at times when your phone lines are especially busy.

4. Outsource the task to another company

In some cases, it may be infeasible to hire another staff member to handle calls – especially if it’s at short notice, or if you’re not sure how busy your phone lines will be this holiday season.

If this is the case, it may be more efficient to outsource the task of answering phones to a third party or hire a virtual assistant to help you out, particularly at times when your phone lines are busy.

5. Use a toll-free or vanity number

Toll-free numbers improve your business’s credibility and let people know that you can afford to pay for their calls. Some providers will also give you additional business-friendly benefits, such as call tracking. This can deliver insight into your callers, and help you to understand why they decided to pick up the phone.

Alternatively, you may choose a more memorable toll-free number, known as a ‘vanity number.’ Vanity numbers are easy to remember, and they often feature numbers that repeat themselves (for example, ‘-1111’). Alternatively, you may choose a vanity number that is more meaningful to your brand, such as the famous number for McAfee antivirus software, which is ‘800-Virus-No,’ and immediately reminds customers what the product does.

6. Limit the length of each call

Limiting the duration of your calls helps to make sure you are answering calls promptly, and is one of the key ways to make sure you are providing good customer service.

Your staff should be trained to efficiently answer customers’ questions about the business and move them through your phone system efficiently, without hanging up on them.

7. Learn when your phone lines are the busiest

Understanding when your phone lines are the busiest can help you to figure out your staffing requirements and plan how many phone lines you need.

For instance, you can choose to forward calls to an alternative number during busy periods or schedule your staff members to call customers back when lines are set to be slowest.

8. Offer to call customers back instead of leaving them on hold

None of us like to be kept on hold – especially without being acknowledged first. A 2012 study by customer engagement data platform Velaro that surveyed over 2,500 consumers revealed that nearly 60 percent of respondents believed that one minute is too long to be on hold.

Instead of making customers wait and leaving them frustrated, you can offer to call them back when a staff member is free, or let them schedule an alternative time that works for them.

9. Give customers the option to enter their contact details on your website so you can call them back

Including a contact form on your website that allows users to enter their name, contact details, and some information about why they’re calling can help to reduce the number of calls you get.

It provides you with some information about the context of the call so you can prepare for it before you talk to the customer, which means you can spend less time on the phone.

10. Upgrade your business phone to a virtual phone system

Virtual phone systems allow you to create a professional voice greeting and make calls over the internet so you stay on the line with your customers even if you have poor phone signal. You can even keep your existing smartphone so you don’t have to fork out extra money for expensive hardware.

Grasshopper can provide your business with a full virtual phone system at a low cost. Its features include custom greetings, extensions, call handling, and more, at a price made for small businesses.

Find out more about how Grasshopper’s virtual phone system can help you to manage your calls online to help make this year’s holiday season less hectic, and start your free trial today.