Take Charge of Your Time
A friend of mine, Sally, works in a very busy service operation. She handles a steady stream of both walk-in and telephone customers as well as managing a heavy load of paperwork and e-mails. Sally has always been proud of the rapport she has built with regular customers and considers many of them her friends.
The other day, Sally called me extremely frustrated. She said her boss told her that she was spending too much time with customers. “On one hand,” she tells me, “he expects me to give outstanding service. At the same time, he’s telling me to keep it short and get the business done. How can he have it both ways?”
Sally’s not alone in her predicament. Efficiently servicing an assigned group of customers with whom you’ve built friendships can be a challenging assignment. Sally said, “Please give me a few pointers that could help me manage my time and still provide my usual friendly, personalized service” This is what I told her.
Get organized. Walk-in traffic and ringing telephones need to be dealt with immediately, so it’s easy to be reactive and simply stay busy with what’s coming at you. But that style won’t get the paperwork done. I suggested to Sally that she organize her paperwork so that when she’s not directly communicating with customers, she can refocus quickly and do what needs to be done. Create weekly and daily to-do lists. Daily to-do lists are best done at the end of the workday, when what you have to do tomorrow is fresh in your mind. Make that list and keep it visible. Knowing that the list is there will also psychologically help to keep conversations short since you’ll know what’s waiting to be done.
Delegate when possible. I’ve found one challenge in doing business with friends is that one has the tendency to want to do that work themselves. What customers want is to have their work done promptly and accurately. It’s important to delegate what work you can to those who should be doing it. Be supportive of the business relationship your friend will have with your associate. All parties will benefit when this happens, and you’ll find extra time in the workday.
Set up customer meetings with agendas. Since walk-in business is time consuming and people end up waiting to be helped, some customers may welcome the opportunity to set an appointment with a start and finish time. Create an agenda for the meeting. Armed with the agenda and prepared for the meeting, these face-to-face meetings can be both friendly and productive. Doing this will also help you plan your daily schedule.
Use the proper method of communication. Each customer situation can require a different strategy. E-mail is quick, but not very personal. The telephone is personal, but oftentimes with a talkative customer, not very efficient. Leaving a voice mail message can be quick and more personal than e-mail. E-mail shouldn’t be used when the communication is complex and will require a back and forth dialogue. Since there are no written rules as to which method to use when, know your customer and the issue to be dealt with to determine the best way to communicate.
Minimize interruptions. It’s easy to be distracted in a busy office. Overhearing other’s conversations and then volunteering to help, or taking an unscheduled break to hear about someone’s personal or business issue can lead to a lot of unproductive time. Each person must self-monitor where he or she spends time. Pay attention to where the time goes and take corrective action to make the workday productive. If coworker interruptions are recurring, it may pay to talk it over with your supervisor.
Time management challenges are unique to each individual. Finding the solution requires each person to personally examine his or her work patterns, and then commit to making changes.
Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355