When trains, planes and automobiles disrupt business
Holiday season always presents difficulties for resource planning as accountants, administrators and front of house staff take annual leave. But against the backdrop of severe delays to most of the country’s domestic and international travel infrastructure, this summer may prove more challenging than normal.
Louise Wilson, Head of the Finance Sector at leading outsourced communications provider Moneypenny says: “With thousands of holidaymakers stranded abroad and rail strikes disrupting the daily commute for many – there’s a very real threat to service delivery for accountancy practices over the next few months. It’s important they think about the client experience and put resource in place while they still can.”
Here, Louise shares five tips to help alleviate the pressures of the 2022 holiday season.
Louise says: “My first tip is to plan while there is still time. Look at your team’s holiday calendar up to September when the schools return and consider how planned and unplanned staff absences could impact your ability to service clients. Could the rest of your team pick up the slack? Or are holidays so back-to-back that any deviation would cause problems? The answers to these questions will determine the next steps and let you get ahead of the issue before it happens.”
Louise continues: “If the planning process reveals areas of vulnerability, then you can put measures in place to protect your business. So, if the front of house team just wouldn’t be able to cope with call volumes because some staff are away, for example, outsourced telephone answering support could be the answer. Whether it’s for overflow, out of hours or all calls, telephone answering can take the pressure off your in-house team, as well as the other departments that often get roped into call-answering when it’s busy. Not only does this guarantee a positive, consistent, and professional experience for clients, it frees up the resource you do have to focus elsewhere.”
Louise says: “Another consideration is whether your digital channels could do more to help. Could clients find the answers they need on your website, could you share or collate more information through client portals and could live chat help to triage enquiries and keep volumes away from already busy phone lines? By considering the client’s digital channels you may be able to provide a seamless experience that belies the under-resourced reality.
“Live chat is especially useful when resource is tight as a live chat handler can manage three chats in the time it would take to handle one call. Plus it can signpost clients to resources that might help them to solve their query, provide a 24/7 way for clients to get in touch and ensure all enquiries are captured.”
Louise adds: “Don’t forget, your clients will be affected by travel chaos too. This means they may have extra concerns about getting important information to you promptly, or their ability to file VAT or year-end returns on time, for example. This will require plenty of empathy and understanding from your team, many of whom will be under pressure themselves, due to holiday absences.
“In this situation it’s best to be honest, especially if clients should expect slower-than-normal services as it helps to manage expectations and generate goodwill. It’s also useful to think in 24/7 terms as more clients may call outside of traditional office hours. Add extra options to auto attendant phone, update phone line messages and ensure that those answering calls know how to handle enquiries efficiently, whether that’s during or outside traditional office hours. While clients won’t expect to speak to their accountant at 2am – knowing they can leave a message with a person, share a concern, or request a call back the following day, is especially helpful and reassuring.”
Louise concludes: “Everyone understands that during the summer businesses often operate with fewer staff, but the exceptional circumstances of this year make it challenging and much harder to plan for. Accountancy practices that are determined to not let fluctuating resource impact the client experience, must act quickly and call on outsourced partners for help without delay. It’s the best way to ensure business is plain sailing this summer.”
About the Author: Louise Wilson is Head of the Finance Sector at Moneypenny, which handles 15 million calls and live chats for financial services businesses every year.
Established in 2000, Moneypenny is the world’s market leader for telephone answering, live chat, outsourced switchboard, and customer contact solutions. In total, more than 21,000 businesses across the UK benefit from Moneypenny’s mix of extraordinary people and ground-breaking technology.
For more information about Moneypenny’s work in the financial sector visit: www.moneypenny.com/uk/accountancy-answering-services/