Contrary to popular belief, too much accessibility is not a good thing.
This advice column is a good reminder of that.
It uses the example of a co-worker overstepping boundaries, but the same principle applies when it comes to clients: You don’t need to be so instantly available.
In fact, it can actually lead to the opposite effect of what you intend: poor customer service and unrealistic client expectations.
When you respond instantly to every beck and call, you are training your clients to think you have nothing better to do than sit there and jump as soon as they command.
That is NOT a good precedent to set in your administrative support business as it leads to all kinds of boundary overstepping, disrespect (of you and your time as a business owner with other clients to care for), and resentment (and resentment is a relationship-killer).
Keeping some buffer area around you is actually healthy for your business and the relationship.
This is why I’m always advising people in our industry to formalize their communication standards and turn-around times, and then inform clients about those policies and protocols so they know ahead of time how things work in your business and what to expect (as well as what they may not expect).
So whose fault is it when this becomes a problem?
Hint: It’s not the client’s.
That’s like getting mad at someone for calling you in the middle of dinner. You’re the one who answered the phone. They didn’t have a gun to your head. 😉
It’s you who has to adjust the behavior and set the standards.
I don’t let clients call or text me for several reasons:
- I don’t want to be chased around and sweated like that.
- I’d never get anything done.
- I’m not trying to be that technologically connected. Remember: healthy boundaries. Technology should be a tool, not an obsession. There’s a time and purpose for it, but outside of that, I don’t want it taking over and interrupting my life. For me, it’s a conscious decision to keep it to a minimum.
- I don’t want to have to chase after a million loose ends scattered all over a bunch of different channels. That just creates more work and chaos that is neither efficient nor a productive use of time and energy. Plus, it allows more room for error. Order is the name of the game.
I inform and instruct clients at the beginning of our relationship that all our communication is to be by email (with separate emails for each separate topic, by the way). Client calls are reserved for our regularly scheduled weekly meetings or by appointment otherwise.
This way, I can use my inbox as the central communication hub, have a “paper” trail (so to speak) for everything, and be able to keep everything organized, sorted and tidy in one place.
So, I tell clients: You can email me any time of day or night, but here is how and when your communications and requests are handled…
(I also explain why these standards are of value and benefit to them: because ultimately, they allow me to provide them with better service and support.)
And then I honor those standards I’ve set and don’t overstep my own boundaries.
Have you formalized your communication and turn-around standards and protocols? Have you incorporated that information into your client guide? Are you going over that information with clients in your new client orientations?
If not, make it a priority to do so now. You’ll thank yourself later, and clients will both respect and be impressed by it.
It demonstrates to them that you have good management skills which gives them greater trust and confidence that you will competently manage and deliver the work you do for them.
And, you’ll be modeling smart business practices that they can implement in their own businesses (with your help).