We all have customers. Some are internal, others are external, but we need to keep them all happy. How can you manage your time more effectively and give excellent customer service? Here are Your Office Mom’s six work tips for smart professionals who want to keep customers happy and for entrepreneurs who want to differentiate themselves from those other guys.
If you don't explain what others should expect regarding how you communicate and follow-up, they're going to set their own expectations. Everyone wants immediate gratification so you need to make it very clear what you can do and when you can do it. How do you do that?
Set a voicemail greeting that is specific to your response time, so people know when they can expect a response. Depending on your role, have instructions for general inquiries and urgent or important matters. Do the same for your email auto-reply.
For all you small business owners out there, establish "office hours" even if you don't have an office or storefront. Don't keep your schedule to yourself. Mention the office hours in your voicemail greeting, email signature and on your website. This will set boundaries, eliminate late night calls and help with work-life balance.
If you tend to overpromise you need to stop. Why? Because it's wreaking havoc with your time management, credibility and possibly your sanity. Let me explain. If you say "I'll get back to you in a few minutes" or "first thing in the morning" you are making a promise. If people don't hear from you, they're going to reach out, and that's a waste of your time when you aren't ready. You have to reply and say you got nothing, or you have to switch gears and get something, FAST. The better approach is to always give yourself a buffer and be clear by saying, "Let me work on this, and get back to you tomorrow by three."
Breaking this habit can be tough because people overcommit for a number of reasons. Some underestimate how long tasks take to complete, others are disorganized, and some are just nice people who want to please others. If you overpromise, you likely think everyone wants a fast turnaround. That may be true (the quick turnaround part) but not when clients have to hound you for it.
Have a daily plan
Before you wind down one day, know your plan for the next one. By reviewing the current day while it's fresh on your mind, you can carry over tasks, check your calendar and prioritize so you can hit the ground running the next day, provided all hell doesn’t break loose and drastically alter your world. Hey, I’m a realist. It happens. But at least you will know what you need to do after you put out the fires.
Control your calendar
Not everyone has this luxury, but to the extent that you can, manage your work calendar to focus on efficiency. If you talk to clients, dedicate a block of time for the sole purpose of making or returning phone calls, instead of making those calls sporadically during the day. Do the same thing with email.
If you schedule meetings, try to have meeting free days. And, just because you're local, don't assume every meeting needs to be face-to-face. Your client may prefer a call, so ask for their preference. If you send a lot of emails, remember that picking up the phone is often more efficient than a volley of emails going back and forth. And, emails don’t tend to build relationships.
Keep friends and family at a distance
You love them, but friends and family send your productivity on a downward spiral. You may think you can multi-task effectively while friends and Mom talk or text, but you can work faster, better without it. Tell others your work hours, especially if you work at home. We all love social media, but it is not our friend, people! You can't post stuff all day if you want to get shit done during the day. Turn off your notifications and close those apps.
Have a crunch time mantra
When you're pressed for time, or overwhelmed stop and ask yourself "what is the most important use of my time right now?" If you ask yourself that question throughout the day, you're going to know where to focus your energy. You can bet it won't be answering unimportant emails or voicemails. It will be taking care of business so you can finish up and go meet your friends for drinks.
Want more? Related reading:
25 Best productivity Apps (Check out my personal favorite #7: Hours)
What other time management tips can you share to help others?