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time management - One Thing at a Time - 2 Simple Steps to Organizing Your Customer Communications

by Chris Malta

Customer service communication is a concern for any E-Biz owner - you've got to respond to every inquiry, address every issue, and still find time for the many other responsibilities running an online business entails. According to E-Biz attorney Cliff Ennico, of CliffEnnico.com, "Customers today want instant answers and get miffed if you take too long getting back to them. With so many emails and voicemails to answer, and only so many hours in a day, it becomes an increasing challenge to keep up with it all." While you can't please everyone, Ennico suggests some steps you can take to stay on top of your customer relations without sacrificing your every spare moment:

  • DON'T Answer Email in Real Time
    Stopping to respond to every email, as it comes in, can become a real source of distraction. Instead, budget blocks of time specifically for clearing your inbox. Depending on the volume of emails you get, you may need to set aside anywhere from an hour to a few hours, at least twice a day, to answer customer service emails. Explains Ennico, "That way, even the most impatient buyer is never more than a few hours away from getting a response."

    When you do get to your email, delete your junk mail, then sort your remaining messages into three categories:

    • Respond To Now – If a message can be responded to in ten words or less, do it immediately, rather than letting it pile up. The vast majority of emails can be answered this way.


    • Respond To Later – If a message requires a lengthier response, or will take time to read, move to the next one and come back when you reach the end. If an inquiry can't be addressed in under twenty-five words, consider a reply such as, "Your message deserves more time than I can give in an email. Please call me."


    • Respond To Never – Many people struggle with ignoring any email, but there are times when it's best not to respond, even at the risk of being considered rude.

    Over the course of the day, these categories will change. What was a Respond To Later will become a Respond To Now, etc.
  • Turn Your Ringer OFF
    It's okay to silence your phone when you're working. Leave a professional sounding voicemail telling customers that you're away from your desk (they don't need to know if your desk is the kitchen table) and you'll return their call as soon as possible.

    If you answer the phone each time it rings, you can easily get to talking and find time quickly sliding away from you. Beyond that, you break your concentration flow – it takes time to refocus on what you were doing and where you were in the process.

    Just like with email, set blocks of time aside to answer your voice messages. Base the amount of time you allot for returning calls on how many you normally receive, and how much time you usually spend responding. You may not be able to reach everyone during your scheduled time – that's okay too. Telephone tag is a fact of life; you'll connect sooner or later.

Managing your communications effectively can be the difference between running a successful e-business and letting your e-business run you. Says Ennico, "Plan your days ahead of time and, as much as possible, stick with the plan. You'll be amazed at how the simple act of creating an organized Customer Service Schedule can free your time up."
 
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