There are two kinds of small business owners: the ones who are so busy that they seem to take forever to respond to clients and the ones who feel they must always be available, bending over backwards for their clients and are killing themselves as a result. Which one are you?
Neither is better than the other, but neither is healthy. One hurts your business while one hurts you. Responsiveness is critical to the success of your business. According to Dawn Fotopulos, founder of BestSmallBizHelp.com and author of Accounting for the Numberphobic: A Survival Guide for Small Business Owners (AMACOM), “Responsiveness drives repeat clients. Repeat clients drive profits.”
Responsiveness is not you being at the beck and call of your clients. The following is not healthy responsiveness: always answering the phone no matter what you are doing; working all hours to make sure every email gets responded to the same day; working so much that you’re missing out on the rest of your life. In the long run, this is an inefficient way to run your business and an unhealthy way to live your life.
Tips for improving responsiveness in your business while still maintaining a balance in your life:
Identify the bottleneck
- Analyze where the slowdown to your business’ responsiveness is. Do you hate answering the phone? Does it all get stuck in your email? Once you know where that bottleneck is, look at ways to relieve the pressure. Maybe hire an answering service. Or give others access to your email. Or block time on your calendar everyday to respond to clients. You will dedicate this block of time to responding to the various ways people reach out to you. If your clients think they need a response time in less than 24 hours, train them otherwise.
- If your clients genuinely need a faster response time (plumbers, doctors, HR emergencies, etc), set up a method just for those types of cases, like a number or email specifically for emergencies and a separate number for all other requests. Essentially to reduce any slowdown in responsiveness, there are two methods: create time for your clients and/or give others (delegate) access to your clients.
Identify the best method for clients to reach you
- Part of the issue with responsiveness is that we receive messages from all over the place: phone, text, email, Facebook messenger, LinkedIn, etc. It is important for you to figure out the best way you want clients to reach you and train them on it. You can use ticketing systems to organize requests, have a private email address for clients that your whole team can access, or use Instant Messaging tools. You need to consider what is the best way for you to be more responsive. If you hate answering the phone, do not advertise your phone number prominently. You also need to consider what methods your specific clients are more likely to use.
Identify the appropriate responsiveness for your business
- Some of you may want to promote self service. Others can have team members respond to routine requests. Still others might assign clients to different team members and have them handle all requests from those clients.Defining responsiveness also means determining what you consider to be an appropriate response time. Is it same day? Within 1-2 business days? Within 1 week? Then train your team and clients what that is through clear communication. It may vary by level of urgency. For example: emergencies get a response within 1 hour, routine within 2 business days, scheduled meetings must happen at least a week out, etc.
Stick to it!!!!!
- Once you have defined what responsiveness is in your business, build systems around that policy. For example, include expected response rates in your email autoresponder, set ticketing deadlines by level of urgency, etc. Having a policy and system in place not only improves your responsiveness, but it makes being responsive easier. You are able to sift through the requests more quickly and if you rely on your team, you will have less requests that you need to handle yourself. So now you’ll have happier clients (more profit!) while doing less work. I call that a win-win.
Is responsiveness killing you? Contact for us for a free consultation on how to create systems to give you more time your business.