When I teach one of my Time Block Management classes, I ask participants what they view as the biggest time wasters in their lives. Phone calls invariably tops the list of things they see as wasting their time at work. They are in a productive frame of mind, working on an assignment, and their phone rings. They have to stop what they’re doing and respond to the phone call without any knowledge of who’s calling and why or how long the interruption is going to keep them from their task. The call is a source of irritation.
Until we take the time to determine who is calling and why. When I ask participants about the calls and we dig deeper, more often than ever it is a customer calling to discuss some aspect of the company’s products or services that they’re concerned about. Think about this in terms of your own business, however large it might be and however many employees you might have. Who’s calling? Usually, it’s a customer who believes in you and your company and wants to re-order, expand services, or get questions answered.
So, is it an interruption? Or is it what most business owners consider customer service to take care of your customer’s needs?
When participants realize the true nature of the “interruption,” the call is less of a distraction than a function of their responsibilities in business.
Far too often, we have seen this problem crop up in customer service situations across the board … beyond the annoying phone call. Your business is about your customers, and customers should be the primary focus of what everyone (including you if you’re the owner) in the company does. What do you have without customers?
Wait staff should be focused on the customer and avoid any time spent chatting with friends (via text, phone call, or face-to-face) when customers are expecting to be served. Customers are more patient with servers if they realize they’re taking care of other customers than standing around waiting for orders. Customer service representatives should be calling clients if there’s a lull and they are waiting for clients to call them. Sales representatives should be taking care of customers, offering suggestions on how to improve their business and get a greater return on their investment instead of bitching about the economy or poor business conditions. How many sales people have you seen griping about a customer’s phone call when they’re trying to generate their weekly sales report? Interruption?
Can you count how many times you’ve been at a retail cashier’s station waiting to pay for your purchase while they’re talking to someone on the phone? Management needs to help those cashiers understand that cash in the register is more important than trying to offer directions to an impatient caller … or consoling a friend who’s had a bad date. And how often have you gotten the evil eye or a disgruntled look from the cashier who believes your request to be taken care of is interrupting their life? How could you be so rude?
Etiquette is still important in business!
What about when you’re meeting with a prospective client, or existing customer, and you receive a text message or a phone call? Do you glance at the text to decide if you need to respond? Do you take the phone call and interrupt your meeting, at the possible expense of losing the client or prospect you’re meeting with for being rude? Those are choices you have to make with the understanding of the potential impact on the relationship.
An easy solution is to leave your smart phone in your vehicle or office when you’re in a meeting, even if you use it to schedule appointments. Your memory should be good enough to enter the information after the meeting. Think, too, about the perception people have of you when you take a phone call or text during a meeting or conference. You may believe it’s an important call, but it’s an interruption to those around you and they will think you must feel important because you took the call when, in reality, they wonder why you even came to the meeting or conference if the phone call or text was that important to you.
What interruptions also do is tell the third party observer tons about your business and the brand you exhibit. Ignoring your phone and concentrating on your customer or your prospect’s needs instead of interrupting the moment speaks volumes about your concern for your customers. Having someone who can answer phones in person instead of shifting a caller into an automated system where they may become even more disgruntled or, even worse, look elsewhere for products and/or services makes a lot of sense. Think about how you and your employees manage your time and take care of your customers.
If you’re interested in a brief introduction to Time Block Management or how Brand Irons can help resolve these potential problems, contact us for an initial consultation.