Managing clients is a big part of any business, regardless of its size. There are always questions that will need answering and situations that need to be dealt with.
Being bombarded with these questions and concerns though can in fact become overwhelming, especially if you don’t know how to properly handle them. Sometimes it can seem the e-mails never quit coming and the phone just doesn’t quit ringing. These circumstances can certainly lead to frustration as you get the feeling that you spend more time answering everyone’s questions rather than working on their business.
Part of the challenge of course is managing expectations properly – if you start out replying to emails immediately or any old time you receive them, you could be setting yourself up for some major frustration down the road.
Continue reading for 7 steps on how you can manage these expectations and help ensure clients don’t overwhelm your time and energy.
- Don’t reply to emails or return phone calls too quickly. Doing so will give the impression that you’re not very busy and available any time. Reply in a timely manner, yes, but don’t hit ‘send’ or pick up the phone immediately after you receive that message. Give it a little time, which will signal to the client that you’re a busy person.
- For some electronic communications (…especially social media/Facebook/Twitter), answer questions with a phone call rather than a reply. This will allow you to discuss other things that come to mind. Also, some people may consider the phone reply a “…polite annoyance” according to Ruth Haag, a management consultant. In other words, some people may in the end be put off by the phone ringing and quit messaging you so often.
- In your contract, make it absolutely clear the days and times you’re available – and stick to it! Real emergencies are an exception of course but be sure your client has a clear understanding of when it’s okay to call, and when it’s not okay.
- Develop a frequently asked questions page on your site and refer your clients to it early on and often. Also, it’s suggested by Haag that you put the same information into an email newsletter and send to new clients as well. Channeling common questions this way will save you a lot of time in the end.
- Ease client expectations by having a set schedule for communications, which can differentiate you from your competitors. For example, answer all e-mails from overnight and morning in the mid-afternoon. Ray Silverstein, president of the peer advisory group PRO (President’s Resource Organization) says you can even brand the process and use it as a marketing tool.
- Prioritize responses for repeat customers, burning issues and high-dollar projects. It could very well mean you have too many clients. If you’re in a hand-holding type of business, things can quickly spiral out of control if you don’t consider this.
- Avoid difficult customers, even if it means turning down jobs. We know it sounds difficult to turn down jobs but if you can, it’s best to pass the buck than to have to deal with a difficult customer that will monopolize your time.
These are just a few tips you need to consider when managing your client’s expectations, especially when it comes to communications.
When you incorporate a business, issues like these will need to be addressed or else you will eventually get overwhelmed and not get any joy out of running your own company.