Archive for September 1st, 2009

Cracking the Whip

When you go to the store, do you blow in like a hurricane and start barking out orders to every person who crosses your path?

Why not? You’re the customer aren’t you? They are in business to serve your needs, aren’t they?

You are the very reason for their existence. What does it matter that there are other customers there before you? Shouldn’t they be doing everything you want, exactly how you want it, when you want it?

The customer is ALWAYS right!

Right?

What would happen if your business worked that way?

What kind of resources would you need in order to deliver service like that?

I imagine you’d need an awful lot of staff, for one thing, in order to cater to those kind of expectations.

Which, of course, would cost a pretty penny.

And then you’d need people to manage that staff, which increases your overhead and administration even more.

You’d also have to stay open 24 hours a day. If a client has a whim at 2 in the morning, you’ve got to be prepared at a second’s notice to take care of them!

Next, you’ve got to have another group of people to oversee things so nothing falls through the cracks.

You’ll probably also need someone in HR to deal with staff turn-over and burn-out issues (it’s not an easy job catering to client needs and whims round the clock day after day).

You’ll also want someone who can be documenting all the attendant workflows and training materials because they’ll be changing from one minute to the next as you bend over backward to meet each and every customer’s unique demands and terms.

To coordinate and brainstorm and stay in sync with all these people and departments, you’ll have to have meetings, lots and lots of meetings.

And emails.

And memos.

And then you’ll want a dedicated customer service team to smooth over ruffled feathers and unhappy customers when you fall down and can’t deliver.

Because that’s exactly what will eventually happen when the customer is always right and you can’t and don’t say no to anyone or anything.

If you’re a solopreneur, you can’t run your business like that. You simply don’t have the means and resources.

What’s more — you can’t afford to run your business like that. Not only for the sake of your own health and sanity, but also for the sake of your clients.

What I want you to know is that you are not a conveyor belt or drive-thru window.

You do NOT have to take everything that is dished out (and particularly not from crappy clients) in order to be of service and value.

You’re not their servant, you’re their administrative partner.

Let’s be honest, most people in our industry are women, and women are natural born nurturers and helpers.

However, women in our society have been conditioned to put their needs last, to placate instead of assert, to bow down instead of stand up.

They too often think that helping and being of service means not having any standards, requirements or expectations of their own for clients.

I really, really want you to hear me on this:

If your practice isn’t capable of delivering on the expectations you allow clients to form, consistently and reliably 99.9% of the time, you’ve got to establish different expectations.

One of the ways you do that is by creating systems and setting policies in your business.

For example, you can’t work 24 hours a day, and I’m sure you don’t want clients calling any ol’ time they please at all hours of the night.

So what you do is formalize some office hours that you advertise to clients and develop a communications policy.

That doesn’t mean you can’t work when you want, regardless of the day or hour.

Rather, it helps you preserve your sanity and manage your business effectively by establishing healthy boundaries and client expectations so that you are able to provide fabulous, wonderful, capable support to your clients.

Here’s the truth of the matter:

You can’t be on your best game and truly help and support clients if you are constantly pulled in conflicting directions trying to please everybody at the same time and your life is a free-for-all with everyone else making up their own rules, doing things their own way, in YOUR business.

The BEST way to help your clients is to help yourself first by creating the optimal conditions that allow you to deliver that wonderful support you want to give.

Policies and procedures and systems are what allow you to HELP clients, all of them, equally and consistently and reliably.

Most people are reasonable and will understand this.

They can certainly relate to why you must have some structure and protocols in your business.

They understand that even more when you show them how that foundation ultimately helps you help them better.