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