Should Business Owners ALWAYS be “On Call”?
How to build client trust and still set boundaries…
I was reading through a discussion posted by Paul Castain on LinkedIn about sales reps remaining “on call” after hours. The responses all seemed to have a single underlying theme. It wasn’t stated out right in some of the responses, but it was at the foundation of their point. You need to set boundaries but still make sure your clients trust that they are a priority. This is never as simple as it seems. Some respondents went as far as to say that they pick up EVERY single call they get – regardless of the day or time.
This made me laugh a little because, well, that simply isn’t possible. You can’t take every call – Even when it’s the middle of the workday. You might be on a job site, talking to another customer, or installing a garage door. Of course, depending on your industry, your response time will vary… As will your customer’s needs.
For local businesses owners it’s hard to let it go to voice mail…
This is very true. For many businesses that invest a large portion of their budget into some form of advertising, missing a single call could cost them their entire conversion rate (again, depending on what your median sales point is). So they are left to push against the ocean. A point well made by Lon Lohmiller when he stated, “experience has proven that a work/life balance is critical for optimal performance at the times when the rep is “on”, which implies that there has to be “off” time that in the end I believe should be self imposed.”
Why can’t it be as simple as the “hours of operation” listed on YP.com, Google Places, or Yelp?
Once again, it’s just not that simple. Your customer might have the same work hours that you have listed on your website. So do you play phone tag for the rest of your life? No, most business owners that are out in the field for the majority of the day have what they call a “bat phone” – It’s a cell phone that office calls get forwarded to when they aren’t in the office. Evaluate your target rich demographic and determine when they are most likely to call and try to make yourself available at those times. Some business owners do need to tweak their hours so customers can reach them on the weekends or evenings.
Set boundaries from the beginning!
If an existing customer calls you at an inappropriate time, don’t pick up, listen to the voice mail, and if it is in fact urgent, call them back immediately. If it can wait a day, call them back within 24 hours. Otherwise, you are setting a precedent that any problem is an emergency and will be dealt with immediately. This quickly becomes a habit and before you know it you’re camping with your family and the “bat phone” is attached to your hip. You get burnt out and can’t perform at an optimal level.
Even the type A personality working seven days a week will get burnt out or over commit their time and resources to customers. It doesn’t matter how much you LOVE YOUR JOB, you still need to take a step back and focus on something else. Tunnel vision and the compulsions to make every single customer your first priority and your best friend will eventually crash and burn. Every client should be a priority. Make sure the squeaky wheel doesn’t get all your grease, and most importantly, be a dependable and reliable vendor that every client can trust.