Ah, the holidays. That wonderful time of year when families gather around the fireplace to drink eggnog, trim the tree, and experience togetherness. But when you’re a small-business owner, the holidays are also a very hectic time of year. Even if you don’t happen to celebrate Christmas, you’ve got a short time to get the word out about your business’ holiday promotions, and to get business done in general since the business world seems to come to a stop from December 25 until January 3. To help you reconcile the needs of your small business with your family’s desire to roast chestnuts on the fire, today’s guest post by Kevin Baker of my1voice offers 12 small business phone tips to make your season a little brighter.

Tip 1: Use smart call forwarding to carve out a little time for yourself. With smart call forwarding you can sneak out to do a little extended shopping, trim the tree, or enjoy a holiday lunch without losing touch. Simply forward your calls to your mobile, home or other number and answer just as though you’re in the office.

Tip 2: Record informational messages that answer repetitive questions.  Rather than taking time to answer the same questions about what days you’ll be working over the holidays or what time the business is open, pre-record a message and make it an option on your virtual receptionist.

Tip 3: Spur holiday sales by offering doorbusters. Add a burst to your ads and/or direct mail/email promotions encouraging customers to call a particular extension you set up to promote the doorbuster of the day. You can use different extensions for each advertising vehicle so you can track which ones are most effective.

Tip 4: Enable the virtual receptionist to greet callers during peak times. Many businesses still prefer to have calls answered by a live person. But during the holidays, the high volume of calls can make it tough to answer every call promptly. Use the virtual receptionist as a backup to provide a friendly, professional greeting.

Tip 5: Use voicemail transcription to scan through messages. Choose a virtual phone service that can turn voicemails into text, so you can have those messages sent to you via e-mail or text message. That way you can quickly skim through them rather than listen to them one at a time.

Tip 6: Give Santa his own extension. Businesses can get in on the holiday spirit by letting kids call to speak with Santa directly at the North Pole. This works particularly well if you have a toll-free phone number.

Tip 7: Put a ‘Call Me’ button on your Web site. Customers often gather information on the Web, then use other means to buy. Make it easy for them to call by adding a ’Call Me’ button to your Web site. Customers click the button, input the phone number they want to use to receive the call, and are connected while they’re still looking at the product or service on screen. It’s doubly important if you’re a retailer without e-commerce capability.

Tip 8: Make business calls while you’re out shopping with the family. But when you do, be sure the caller ID appears as if you’re calling from the office. With the my1voice virtual calling card you can make outgoing calls from anywhere.

Tip 9: Use Caller ID tagging to identify business vs. personal calls. By assigning a unique number to appear in front of incoming calls, you can tell at a glance what phone number the caller dialed – your my1voice number or your direct number. Knowing beforehand if a call is business or personal lets you choose whether to answer.

Tip 10: Don’t wait around to receive a fax in your office. Treat fax delivery the same as your voicemail messages: Have faxes sent directly to your e-mail inbox.

Tip 11: Use smart call forwarding to offer 24×7 customer support. When customers need help during the holidays, they usually want it right now. Use smart call forwarding to forward calls to any phone you choose. Have each person on staff take a night to provide support during the holidays – then advertise it’s available.

Tip 12: Make your holiday bright. Not really a phone tip but still good advice. Take the time to relax, enjoy and refresh yourself for 2011. Happy holidays!

Kevin Baker (kbaker@protus.com) is the Product Marketing Manager for my1voice (www.my1voice.com) the cost-effective, feature-rich virtual phone service for small business.