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Assume I Need it ASAP

Assume I Need it ASAP

An overview of managing client expectations, emphasizing the importance of avoiding phrases like "I'm busy" and assuming clients need things ASAP....

It’s no secret that customer confidence in your business is one of the most important commodities. In last month’s installment of Mike’s Musings, we discussed Delivering Great Customer Service and the ways to differentiate your business from the competition and most importantly, guarantee your client’s confidence. This month, I’d like to discuss two unfortunate practices for newer businesses and why they will stifle your growth. These practices are 1. telling your client that you are busy, and 2. assuming your client isn’t in a hurry for you to provide them what they need. If you are serious about growing your business, these are practices you need to throw out immediately.

Why Do We Say We’re Busy?

Often the “I’m busy” response is a habit formed in a company culture where salaried employees are attempting to deflect assignments from superiors or preempt requests from co-workers. You are signaling that you don’t get paid enough to do more than you are doing right now, and that the requestor should go find someone else, or get in line. This habit does not work in business, especially if it’s your business.

What “I’m Busy” Means to Customers

It’s vital to bear in mind that in the B2B world, we are all “very busy”. When you infer or say “I’m busy” you are unintentionally implying is the following:

  • “What I’m working on is more important than this thing you need.” or
  • “I am in high demand, and you are lucky I’m doing this for you.” or
  • “I am poor at time management.” or
  • All of the above

You mostly likely did not intend to imply any of these things, so don’t say it! Even if your customer asks you how you are doing, the answer should never be “I’m really busy.”

Assume I Need it ASAP

As a customer, I assume that unless I say otherwise, my provider knows I need what I am asking for ASAP. I should also note that I rarely say otherwise. We all know the old adage, “Time is Money”. Also, when I deal with new potential vendors, I take note of whether they ask we when I need something. If they don’t ask, I consider it a red flag.

When you are asked for something from a client, here are a few rules to keep you straight:

  1. Never tell them you are “very busy”. This infers to the client that either you don’t have time for them or your business is not as valuable as other client’s business, neither of which is good for you.
  2. Always ask the client when they need it, set the date, and then deliver it early if you can.
  3. Always communicate with the client and reset their expectations if you are going to be late on delivery.
  4. Always assume they need it ASAP unless they clearly say otherwise because their time is valuable.

Most clients will not out-and-out tell you when they need something unless you ask specifically. So, if you do not ask, you may be setting yourself up to disappoint your client, and that is a self-inflicted wound that is easy to remedy.

Tips & Tools for Managing Expectations

Setting expectations needs to be a habit. So the more you do it, the easier it will be. Also, you should ensure that you have a high-level view of your existing commitments that you can reference when setting expectations. Here are some tips and tools you can use to enforce better habits:

  1. Write a basic script to refer to whenever you are initially discussing a client’s request to ensure you follow the Dos and Don’ts outlined above. After using this script for a while, it will become second nature, and you will have developed a new and productive habit.
  2. Implement a system to record, prioritize, and track your existing requests and commitments. Your system could be a simple spreadsheet, or an inexpensive CRM or Project Management system. Do not depend on your memory. You need something to provide you an overview of what you need to do when discussing commitments with clients.
  3. Practice the script and refer to your commitments tools every day. You will be surprised how quickly these simple things will change your client’s perspective and improve their confidence in your business.

Once You’ve Nailed the Basics

There are a lot more things you can do once you break the bad habits we’ve outlined above and started your journey to exceptional service. If you envision growth for your company, the culture starts with you.

There are many tools out there to assist you in managing your work. Before you embark on that journey, it’s best to make sure your process to ensure client expectations is an integral part of your culture.

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