Business tips

Why answering the phone during the Christmas rush period is important for your business

No amount of preparation, marketing or otherwise encouraging customers to order early will ever stop the rush that begins halfway through December. Hampers By Design, an online luxury gift hamper company, shares its secrets to handling the Christmas rush effectively.

Some might think Christmas would be no fun in the Hampers By Design office. After all, several weeks in a row of 19-hour days could take its toll, and the manual labour involved in creating and wrapping every single one of thousands of orders might be maddening. But it is about as satisfying as it gets, says business owner Lee-Anne Chappell-Magditsch.

“We make people happy every day,” she smiles. “Our job is to make presents for people. And this year I should only be working 15-hour days coming up to Christmas, instead of 19-hour days, thanks to the fact that last Christmas taught us a lot of valuable lessons, particularly to do with staffing.”

The e-commerce business sells around 6,000 hampers each year, with 50 per cent of these being ordered as Christmas gifts. So while Hampers By Design’s mid-year can be luxuriously relaxed, all of November and the first three weeks of December are a madhouse. Last year orders had to be cut off on 19 December but this year, as she has brought four extra staff on-board, Chappell-Magditsch hopes to keep the doors open until 22 December.

Chappell-Magditsch’s top tips for success
“Be patient. Be accessible. Be contactable,” Lee-Anne says. “Answer the phone, return messages and return emails. It is too easy to say that the phone is ringing too much and you’re not going to answer it. But that one phone call you don’t answer could be a huge corporate order.”

Managing an e-commerce website

Chappell-Magditsch, who bought the business with her construction project manager husband Jason Magditsch two years ago, was previously a remedial massage therapist. Apart from a creative streak (she has a history in fashion design) and a lifetime of freelancing, she knew little about running an e-commerce business.

“The people at Perth Web host our website and the staff are great with helping us out. That has been very important,” she says. “I also have a friend that is quite knowledgeable in online marketing, so I call on her services quite regularly.”

After two years of testing various markets, Chappell-Magditsch says traditional print media advertising has not provided an impressive response. Online advertising, particularly Facebook campaigns, as well as monthly emails, make a difference. A growth target of 10 per cent year-on-year has been exceeded in both years of ownership.

Planning ahead for Christmas

But it is Christmas that really makes a difference and, at 50 per cent of revenue, Chappell-Magditsch has had to learn to do it right. Planning for each Christmas begins exactly 12 months earlier, she says, during the previous Christmas.

“Our business comes locally, nationally and from overseas – people living away but ordering for friends and family at home,” she says. “Also, at Christmas we get quite a few corporations wanting to give their staff and clients hampers as gifts.”

In terms of the website look and feel, at Christmas time Chappell-Magditsch makes no major structural changes but several important design changes. “Our home page banner changes to a Christmas one around the beginning of November,” she says. “A little closer to Christmas we put the second banner up, which will have our Christmas closure date. We will also have some very clear information on the website about times that last orders need to be made by.”

Focus on customer service

The most important changes around Christmas time, Chappell-Magditsch says, come in the form of staffing and customer service. During the year she employs three part-time people each week, mainly to deliver hampers around Perth. But this Christmas those staff – plus another four to five people – will be on board full-time.

“This year we’re going to run two shifts during the day,” she says. “We will have an early morning to mid-afternoon shift, then we will have a mid-afternoon to evening shift. That hopefully might cut down on the number of 19-hour days that I have to work!

“We also allocate one person full-time to simply answer the phone. I think a lot of our success is due to the fact that we are very hands-on with customer service. We’re ready to take phone calls, change gifts around, create a custom gift, go out and meet corporate clients and design gifts for them and so on. Being accessible is vital. When people ask us for something special, we like to think the only answer is ‘yes we can’.”

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