Gone Fishing!

Business Operations

Have you started thinking about your summer holiday yet? A survey commissioned by Simply Business in 2015 found that 1/5 of business owners couldn’t afford to take a single day off in the summer holidays.  Taking a break is vital for maintaining a healthy body and mind, but when you run your own business it can be hard to step away.

The survey found that a further 30% of respondents were only able to take a holiday if they remained at home or in the UK.  The cost of staying online and available while on holiday can be high, especially if you are heading abroad.  Not every hotel provides free or cost effective Wi-Fi and you won’t always know what you have available until you get to your destination.

If you’re not able to outsource your holiday cover then you have one simple tool available to you, which can help ease your holiday anxiety: good communication!

Customers understand that you need to take a break from time to time and effective communication can go a long way to managing expectations.  The following three tips are the key communications I think are important when you go on holiday:

1) Let your customers know when you are going on holiday and how long you will be away for. Try to give them at least one month’s notice if you can – this gives them time to plan for your absence. If you have made arrangements for someone to cover, let your customer know exactly what level of cover that is and the service they can expect.

2) Set up an out of office reply on your email. If you use a system such as exchange or Gmail to host your emails, this is really straight forward and in your main settings. If you use an email system hosted by your website host, you may need to set this up via your hosting control panel or webmail login.

Your out of office may be seen by current or potential customers, so it’s important to include key information:

– the dates you are away

– if you are checking emails while you are away, how frequently and if/when they can expect a reply

– if you will be replying to emails and you’re travelling to a different time zone, it is helpful to include the time difference

– what to do if their email is urgent

Here are some examples of out of office replies I use for my business and client specific emails:

“Thank you for your email. I am on holiday from 4 June until 20 June. I will not be checking my emails during this time. If your enquiry is urgent, please forward your email to virtualangel@virtualangels.co.uk or call 01183 800930.”

“Thank you for your email. I am on holiday from 4 June until 20 June. During this time, my emails will be monitored by my colleague, Nicola, who will reply to your enquiry in my absence.  If your email is urgent, please call 01183 800930.”

3) If your phone lines will not be monitored by another person while you are away, change your voicemail message. As with your out of office, be clear when you will be away and how frequently you’ll be picking up voicemail messages (if at all!).  If you’re not going to be monitoring voicemail frequently, let them know how best to contact you (e.g. email) or what they can do if their enquiry is urgent.

These are three very simple things you can do to communicate your absence to your customers and potential clients, but I’m often surprised by how many people that don’t think to do them. Do you have any tips for taking a holiday when you run your own business? I’d love to hear them!


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