With the holiday season in full swing, we've come up with five tips to help your business stand apart from the rest this Christmas.

1. Plan ahead

Whether you're planning to shut up shop over Christmas or not, the key to a successful and stress-free holiday period is to be as prepared as you can.

Try to make a plan for any unexpected events. Whether you're a plumber who's on call for Boxing Day, or a mobility company helping take the pressure off hospitals over Christmas, it's good to have contingency plans in place in case a staff member calls in sick, for instance, or weather issues that could create problems.

If you are planning to close over the festive period, don't forget about security. Many premises will be empty with no supervision on Christmas Day and could become a target for thieves, so it's essential you lock up properly and precautions to protect your equipment and assets. That goes for business vehicles, too - make sure no tools or valuables are left unsecured.

2. Closed for Christmas? Tell your customers 

Update your website, social media, Google My Business account and Which? Trusted Trader profile with your opening times over the holidays to keep your customers informed.

Setting up out of office emails is an easy way to let customers know when they are likely to get a response from you, and you can also leave them instructions on how to get in touch if their query is urgent.

Learn how to promote your business and keep customers informed about your opening times and more with our guide to using Google My Business.

3. Consider holiday marketing

Christmas is the perfect time to show your customers that your business has heart and personality, while also informing them about the services you offer, as well as any upcoming deals or interesting products. 

Some of the easiest ways to do this is to engage with your customers on social media, or through newsletters with a fun and festive twist.

Perhaps could get your social media followers to take part in competitions, such as 'best-dressed Christmas tree', where you can interact with them if they share their own pictures? Or maybe you could send out a special Christmas-themed newsletter to get them excited about what your business has to offer? 

There are lots of options, so don't be afraid to give one a go.

4. Invest in your customers during quiet periods

Depending on your industry, you might find the end of the year is traditionally your quiet time. If that's the case, this can be a fantastic opportunity to invest more time in your customer relationships.

This includes things like replying to customer reviews on your Which? Trusted Trader profile, along with any reviews, comments or questions that have come in on social media, through your website or over email. You could also follow up on previous jobs to see if people were happy with your service. 

Taking the time to do this can really pay off; if a customer feels valued, they're more likely to recommend you to people they know, and choose to come back to you again in future.

Work on getting your business to stand out on Google by following our SEO checklist.

5. Get ready for 2021

With the new year just around the corner, it's helpful to have a plan in place for anything you need to do or get ready for in January and beyond.

What obligations and commitments has your business made for January? Is there anything you could start or organise now to make the process easier? There may be a large contract that's up for renewal, a full kitchen to install, or simply the need to set time aside to complete your self-assessment tax return before the 31 January deadline.

While you should definitely spend the holidays enjoying a welcome break, just a little time set aside to look ahead can give you extra peace of mind.

To help beat the tax deadline, read our expert guide on how to complete your self-assessment tax return.

How are our Which? Trusted Traders preparing for Christmas?

We caught up with Which? Trusted Trader Finesse Windows to see what festive preparations they're putting in place for the end of the year…

What challenges does the Christmas break present to you?

'Every year, from mid-October onwards we get inundated with requests for pre-Christmas window installations.

'We work on approximately eight weeks lead time, but there is a significant proportion of people who leave the purchase of windows and doors right to the last minute. We often have to turn customers away because we just can’t fit them into our pre-Christmas schedule.'

What about emergencies over the holiday period?

'Unfortunately we find that attempted burglaries do continue to happen to our customers - and, of course, there’s always a few customers that manage to lock themselves out of their homes.

'We have formed a good relationship over the years with a reliable local locksmith who is on call for us, should the need arise.'

How are you preparing for Christmas this year?

'We always close our factory for two weeks over Christmas to allow our fabricators and fitting teams to rest and celebrate with their families. The showroom remains open throughout, so we are able to welcome prospective clients over the Christmas holidays.

'On a practical note, we are updating our website and Google listing page to tell people when we are open and closed, and we are reinforcing the same message with social media posts and email campaigns to our customer base.

'We also learned the hard way that water pipes can freeze and burst when not in use, so we always check the factory utilities before we close - just to make sure everything is insulated. We spent two days over the Christmas holidays a few years ago mopping up and fixing pipework.'

Is there any advice you have for other Which? Trusted Traders?

'We are very keen not to miss any calls from clients, so we employ a third-party call handling service to provide a personalised message-taking service for any calls that do slip through the net.

'They ensure that any calls we miss are handled, and then written up and sent to us via email.

'There’s always another challenge around the corner, and it’s very easy to go through the whole of your time working faster and faster without taking a breath, but sometimes it’s crucial to pause and see the bigger picture. Christmas is a good time to do that in our industry, as January tends to be quiet in comparison to other months, so it affords more time for reflection.'