It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get work done during working hours. Sometimes, it's not the volume of tasks, it's the number of interruptions. Between phone calls and e-mails, hours needed to focus on a project can turn easily into 10-minute increments.
We all want to give exceptional client service.Unfortunately, the belief that superior service must include instant access can be detrimental to both you and your clients. After all, if you can't get your work done, it costs you sleep and you end up not completing all the projects well - or even at all. In the long run, this can lead to less satisfied clients.
With just a couple of everyday technology tools, you can solve the conundrum of how to provide excellent client service while getting rid of interruptions. These simple tools are voice mail and Outlook “rules.”
First, we must remember what our clients really want. They want us to help them reach their financial goals and to be responsive when they call or e-mail. This means we need to be able to do our work well and still be responsive. But what does “responsive” mean? In my experience, it means we need to respond quickly to their call or e-mail. It does not mean we need to respond quickly to the content of their phone call or e-mail!
Once you decide to embrace this definition of responsiveness, the next step is using the technology tools that are at your fingertips. To deal with phone calls, unless you notice your “caller ID” flashing the name “White House,” you should send all of your calls to voice mail. E-mails should also be sent to “voice mail” with an automatic reply. By creatively composing your outgoing messages, your clients will feel valued and they will wait for your reply happily.
To reduce the temptation of picking up a phone call or reading an e-mail the second it comes in, you need to set your phone to “do not disturb” and turn off e-mail notifications. This will be difficult at first because you are not used to ignoring any kind of knock at your door. However, by setting aside a few times a day to listen to voice mail messages and read e-mails, you can respond to your clients in a timely manner without the inconvenience of being interrupted.
Outgoing voice mail messages all say about the same thing: “I'm in a meeting or away from my desk and can't take your call. Your call is important to me, so please leave a message along with your name and phone number. I will get back to you as soon as I'm able.” Trust me, that message does not instill any kind of positive feeling in your clients. Although your outgoing message can't be personalized to a particular caller, it can reflect your personality and the impression you want to give. My outgoing voice mail message says: “Hi, it's Sheryl. I'm busy improving your wealth and will need to call you back. Please leave your message. Thanks!”
My clients really like that message – and not just for its originality. They like it because I'm telling them that the reason I'm putting them off is because I'm working for their benefit, not ignoring them because some random meeting is more important. I also try to change my message periodically. Clients like this as well; it's just another way of connecting and being personable.
Automatic e-mail responses can work much like voice mail. There are two ways to do this: using Auto Response or creating a “rule.” If you utilize Auto Response, your client will see the words “Auto Response” in the subject line. If you don't want your outgoing email message to say “Auto Response”, you need to create a rule. My rule says that all incoming e-mails will receive a self-created template response. Whether you use Auto Response or rules, your message needs to convey that you are working hard for your client and will answer soon, such as: “I wanted to let you know that I got your e-mail. I'm meeting with fund managers, getting updates on your investments. I'll get back to you before I leave today – promise!” Of course, it's important to change your outgoing message daily.
I challenge you to try this. And please let me know how it works out for you and your clients.
Have any suggestions? What are some of your time management secrets? Share your solutions.
Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.