Tips to survive the Christmas ‘stress test’

Many SMEs experience a make-or-break rise in intensity over Christmas. How you respond is your true measure as a business. Customers who are disappointed at this busy, emotional time of year may never come back.

If it’s a first time for you, and you have a seasonal business, then consider this a great stress test for your business.

Even if things don’t go perfectly to plan, it’s a brilliant opportunity to take stock and put a plan in place for the next business peak. So, what does a Christmas-ready business look like?

A prepared business knows how it needs to function during peak times – it has measures in place to ensure it remains efficient.

Unfortunately, efficiency often goes out the window when a business is under stress. This is a massive missed opportunity as it negatively impacts your profitability.

For peak efficiency, businesses will have the following in place:

Flexibility

Santa looking distraught at a receipt The Christmas-ready business may require its people to do a little extra and work a little harder during this peak time, but it doesn’t let things descend into chaos.

When you spend too much time shifting people around, when you or your managers resort to running deliveries yourselves, or you engage last-minute personnel or couriers at huge expense, that’s chaos.

Flexible arrangements may involve partnering with an outsourced service provider, which has the capacity to increase or decrease resources quickly. You need someone who is prepared to partner closely with you and be responsive.

Measuring performance

Understanding how to handle business peaks doesn’t happen overnight, but you can go a long way to making positive change by measuring and analysing what went right and wrong.

For example, if Christmas brings a big seasonal jump in costs then ask questions – what part of the business took the biggest hit? Are there ways you could make this area more efficient?

Similarly, if you have a big jump in customer complaints, if a theme develops, be careful to make meaningful changes.

For example, if consistently late deliveries are an issue, then you know better resources are required for next time.

Walter Scremin, Ontime GroupDeliveries can be a major pain point at this time of year. Many businesses are prepared for the Christmas rush with systems to measure their delivery fleet’s performance, including telematics, which also assist with proof of delivery. These businesses will have fewer missed or late deliveries, fewer returns, fewer payment disputes, and happier customers all around.

This begs the question: is your business Christmas-ready?

Walter Scremin is the general manager of national delivery business OnTime Group.

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