How to manage peaks and troughs in workload
We’ve all heard the saying ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and when you’re running your own business you love nothing more than making hay – but it’s not always like that.
For many of us, it can seem the chance for making hay happens in a few crazy months, followed by a slow patch that can last just as long.
For example, imagine you sell and install air-conditioners.
As soon as the weather starts to heat up and there is that first hot day, the telephone starts to ring.
The calls continue as the weather gets warmer and suddenly it’s three weeks before Christmas and everyone wants their air-conditioner to be installed now.
You wish they had called you months ago, but this is how it always goes.
There are only so many hours in a day. As the business installing the air-conditioners, you want the work but how do you manage it?
Here are some suggestions:
- Manage customer expectations
Always let customers know what the time frame is likely to be and be honest about it.
It’s always better to under-promise and over deliver. This way you won’t be spending your time answering customer calls wanting to know when you are going to be starting or finishing the job.
Offer a guarantee that you will finish by a particular date, and stick to it. It can help customers relax knowing the job will be done.
- Get organised
Manage your appointments and try and batch work.
This might be scheduling jobs in the same area to reduce travel time or doing similar types of jobs together. You might also like to start a waiting list in case you complete jobs quicker than intended.
- Offer an express rate
Like postage you can offer different rates to clients. There might be a rate to complete the job within seven days, 14 days or within the month.
Naturally, the express rate would be the higher price and allows the customer to decide whether they would like to pay a premium to get the job done when they want it.
This way, if you have to pay over time or bonus rates to staff to get the job done quicker, it’s covered by the customer.
- Extend your hours
If you have no control of your peak times for example work can only be completed in school holidays or during January, then you may just need to extend your hours during this time.
To avoid exhaustion, it’s important to take time off immediately after the peaks or to rotate staff.
Working extended hours for long periods of time is not recommended for your health as a business owner.
Some businesses work flat out for three months bringing in half a year’s worth of business and survive knowing that they can take three months off!
- Promote off-peak services
Many customers love a bargain, so why not promote your services at a discount during the slower months?
You might pick up customers who respond to off peak pricing.
If you sell air-conditioners you could promote get in early and get 30 percent off or advertise split systems in winter time. Use the words ‘beat the rush’ or ‘enjoy off peak prices’ in your ads to drive the point home.
- Bundle services in off-peak
There’ll be fewer customers in your off-peak but why not try and increase the dollar value they spend with you?
You could offer to provide another service at a great rate.
For example, if you were a painter you might offer to do the woodwork for a special price.
Think about what services are efficient for you when they are completed together and offer a good deal to the customer to create extra work during the lean times.
- Use your down time productively
Rather than waiting for the phone to ring choose to use this slow period productively.
Take a holiday to recharge your batteries for the peak season, organise your office systems, follow up leads or plan your marketing for the year.
It’s often a great time to work on your business when you’re not working in it.