I got married 16 years ago, five years before iPhones existed. There was no texting. Everyone had a landline. Business and office hours were a thing, and those were boundaries that people…respected? Maybe that’s not the right word.
The ways that vendors and clients can communicate seem endless now – you can reach anyone by email, (cell)phone, texting, contact them through their website or Facebook and Instagram pages. You can tag someone on Twitter. And I think we can all agree that this has become a mixed blessing, huh? There are two client related boundaries you need to set right now:
The Boundaries You Set For Your Clients
While it’s easier to reach your prospects, the pressure to get back to them as quickly as possible is outgrowing our capability to do that. Getting back to someone in 24 hours turned into getting back to them by the end of the day (any day), which has slid into getting back to them within 5 minutes, no matter what. Because if you don’t get back to a prospect quickly, then they will move on to someone who will. And if it’s a client, they might think that you’re being unresponsive, and difficult to deal with. That’s the fear, anyway.
The best way to game that system is to set expectations and boundaries early. Automatic inquiry responses that include a time range for a personal response and/or a link to schedule a phone or video consult. With clients, you can make it a part of your onboarding process to send them the rules of when you are available. 2:00am? No. If they send you an email or text at 2:00am, you’ll get back to them between 9:00am and noon the next day, unless that’s a Saturday. Whatever schedule you want to stick to – It’s just going back to the concept of reasonable office hours. And it works.
The Boundaries You Set For Yourself
But it’s tough. As vendors, we want to give our clients the best service possible. We want to be there when they need us. We are our businesses, and that can get frustrating, when it’s Monday you’re looking at three emails that were sent late Saturday night that you didn’t answer, and one of them is an email asking why you didn’t answer the one they sent before that. Which is when the panic, guilt and self-loathing set in. Don’t let it. You need to respect your own time, too. Otherwise, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, you have to set boundaries for yourself, too, because you know how you are.
Boundaries aren’t just about autoresponders and client rules, they’re also a state of mind.
I have a confession. I’m a night owl, so I’m known to send and answer emails and texts late at night. If you text or email me at midnight and if I’m available, I will respond right away. But here’s the thing: I believe that No One should expect to get a quick response after business hours, or on a weekend, unless it’s been scheduled. If you do, it’s a bonus. There are times when I get a text and I don’t respond to it until the next day because it’s after hours…and no one should expect to get an instant response after hours. If it’s urgent, tell me it’s urgent. But very little in your world or mine is that urgent after 9:00pm.
If the worry and panic are bubbling up because you know you’re not getting back to everyone in a timely manner, that’s different. That’s a workflow issue. And workflow issues are relatively easy to solve, once you figure out what works for you. Automation (my old friend), time blocking, or giving yourself a break once in a while. If you’d like to talk about what’s possible, I’m here for you! And if you live in Los Angeles, I’m holding a workshop on processes and workflow on May 5th. Like I said – I’m here for you!
I’ll talk to you soon,