In my last post, I shared a story of a client of mine who felt pressure to check her e-mail all the time and stay tethered to her smart phone in order to be responsive to her clients. It was causing an incredible amount of stress in her life, and when I told her that a 24-hour or 48-hour response time was perfectly acceptable, she responded like a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
It was definitely a mindset buster to be able to accept that. I wanted to take that idea and expand on it. Another related mindset buster is the idea that you have to be available to your clients 24/7 in order to be successful. Simply put, that idea is just not sustainable. I want you to be successful in the long term. If you try to be available all the time, every day, you will burn out.
It’s really an issue of boundaries. All of us, deep down in our hearts, really want to bend over backward for our customers. We want to give them great customer service and believe that if we do, our business will grow. Why? Well, when someone does that for me, I feel good. I want to do something to help that business owner. I might want to give them a referral or write a positive online review for them. We’re all sort of hard-wired that way.
I wanted to share with you one of the things I do to manage my time. Every time I take on a new client, I go through the basics on how we’ll work through our weekly coaching calls and what they need to prepare for our meetings.
I also tell them that they are welcomed to reach out in between our sessions in one of three ways. They can e-mail me, text me or Facebook message me, and they can do any of those things at any time. If they have a question at 2 a.m., they can send it. If they have an idea they want to run by me at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, they can text me.
I explain that I will respond to them by the next business day, and I may respond to them sooner. I tell them that it’s my job to hold my boundaries as to when I will look at those communications from my clients. It’s my job to protect my family time and my free time.
The reason I started this process with new clients was that I realized that many of my current customers were sort of afraid to email or text in between coaching sessions because they didn’t want to overstep the relationship. In some cases, they could have used a little extra support or a sounding board but didn’t contact me because they didn’t want to encroach on my family time.
It finally occurred to me that I had not established my own boundaries and that, as a result, my clients were trying to protect me. That was my mistake as a business owner, as a human, to not set boundaries.
I would challenge you to think about that. Have you set good boundaries? Would you be angry if a client called you at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning? Have you communicated your boundaries clearly to your clients so they know what to expect?
1. Establish your boundaries. For example, I have office hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and reduced hours in the summer. The do-not-disturb function on my phone blocks all but family emergency calls between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. I do not allow Facebook notifications to come through to my phone or desktop; I log into Facebook when I have time to respond to those messages.
2. Communicate your boundaries to your clients. I tell my clients the channels in which they can reach me and that I promise to respond the next business day. I explain that I might respond earlier if it works out in my schedule, but I will definitely respond by my next office hours.
When you do these two things, setting boundaries and communicating them, your stress levels will immediately go down. You won’t have to worry all the time whether a client has a question, if you have a new order waiting, or whether there’s an issue to respond to. Your clients know you will respond by the next business day, and if you respond sooner, that’s just icing on the cake.
Remember that in many cases, you are putting pressure on yourself to respond 24/7. Don’t do it. Play for the long run. Give yourself a break so you can do a good job and be happy. In the end, happy business owners are successful business owners.
Need help setting boundaries? Not sure how to communicate this with your clients? Get in touch, I’d love to help!