If you’ve gone from sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring to not having enough time to answer the phone, that’s a positive sign that business has blossomed.
Maybe it’s time to implement some strategies to deal with your active business life now.
I have personally witnessed frustrated clients because business owners weren’t returning calls or getting back to potential customers with bids in a timely manner.
I’m also aware of business owners who weren’t invoicing customers on a regular schedule.
Believe it or not, most customers want to pay their bills when a job is complete. Not receiving the invoice can be a source of stress for them.
If you aren’t getting back to people on a consistent basis, you run the risk of getting a bad reputation and people may choose to take their business elsewhere.
I always tell business owners, “For every one of us in business, there’s someone else out there doing the exact same job.”
Our clients and customers don’t have to be loyal to us and it’s easier than ever to find a replacement with social media and search engines at everyone’s fingertips. If you’re legitimately busy, you should still strive to remain professional. One of the biggest tools you can embrace is excellent communication when it comes to your clients, vendors, your team and supporters. Treat people how you’d like to be treated.
Do you want to be in limbo waiting for an answer, waiting to schedule an appointment or waiting to get a bid from someone? I’m sure you don’t because it makes us feel unimportant or like our business and money doesn’t matter.
We want to make sure we don’t make the people who support our businesses feel that way. Be sure to embrace strong communication skills with the following three strategies:
Requests: In business, there are many requests that come our way. Requests to answer a question, complete a task, schedule an appointment or review something, the list goes on and on.
When we’re busy, it’s tempting to ‘temporarily’ ignore the request until we have time to get back to it. But, the person on the other end has no idea when we’re thinking about getting back to them.
When people feel ignored, they can get frustrated and even angry. I’ve found that the best strategy is to quickly acknowledge the person’s request and let them know when you will be able to officially get back to them. Here are a couple of examples:
“Thank you for reaching out to me with questions about my business. I’m in an all-day meeting today, but I’ll be happy to get back to you with answers by 3 p.m. tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a link to frequently asked questions on my website.”
“I would love to schedule an appointment with you. I’ll be out of my office for the rest of the day, but I look forward to speaking with you tomorrow at 10 a.m. to set it up.”
As you can see, I was very specific about the day and time for follow-up. The key here is you must follow up when you say you will. So, make sure you’re available at the time you say and schedule the follow-up in your calendar or with a reminder notification on your phone.
Voicemail: I believe most people respond well when they know what the parameters are for our phone or office hours.
Although it can be tempting to be available all hours of the day and night, I don’t believe it’s good for our life balance to create those expectations with people. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to leave an outgoing message on your voicemail letting people know when you’ll get back to them. Here’s an example:
“You’ve reached the voicemail for (your name and business). I’m sorry to have missed your call. All business calls will be returned by 5 p.m. the next business day. I look forward to speaking with you soon.”
If you happen to have time to call back before the next business day, great. But, now the person on the other end of the phone knows they shouldn’t be expecting a call back from you at 8 p.m. There’s a reasonable expectation set for your return call.
Email autoresponder: When you know you’ll be away from your office for a few days, be sure to set up an autoresponder for your email to set a reasonable expectation for a response from you when you get back. It’s OK to give yourself an extra day to get caught up before returning emails when you return to the office. If you’re returning on a Monday, consider saying you’ll be returning emails on Tuesday.
Here’s an example:
“I will be out of the office until (date). I will be returning emails on (date). Thank you!”
I think it’s OK to go with short and sweet for autoresponders with no need to explain where you are.
If you have a team, you may want to direct them to send urgent email to someone on your team or provide their phone number. Just be sure to give the person a head’s up that you’ve shared their contact information.
Communication in business is powerful. Poor communication has the potential to break your business contact’s confidence in your services. Strong communication has the potential to bridge the gap between busy and reliable. Be sure to stay professional by staying connected.