I’ll just give you the answer upfront here - no beating around the bush. I’m not planning to answer that client email today, because it’s bad for business.
Yep, that’s right. Answering your clients emails today is bad for business. That’s totally counterintuitive, isn’t it? Isn’t it basically the number one tenet of good customer service to answer your emails quickly? Well, actually, the number one tenet of good customer service is to manage your clients’ expectations properly. And everything you do plays a part in that - especially how you answer your emails.
Here’s a tidbit that will change the entire way you do business, so remember it:
Clients always expect you to do what you’ve done before.
You can put anything in your contract that you want, but clients are still going to expect you to do what you’ve done before. If they’re unhappy, it’s almost always because of an expectation you’ve set incorrectly, which is both a terrifying and incredibly freeing thought, depending on how you think about it! Let’s choose to think of it positively for now…
You are fully in charge of how your clients perceive you!
That’s awesome! You can train them on what to expect, and what not to expect, from the very beginning. If you are funny in the first meeting, they’ll expect you to be funny in the second meeting. If you answer emails immediately, then your clients are going to start to expect that you’ll answer their emails immediately every time. This is problematic for a few reasons:
Our schedules are cray. We don’t always have time to answer an email right away! Maybe I was at a meeting and didn’t even see it come through quite yet.
All clients are not top priority at all times. Especially in the wedding industry. Someone else’s emails may be more important than this client’s - at this time, at least.
A lot (most) of our emails require a little extra data/info/work before responding. For instance, if a client asks for an updated quote, that takes time to prepare, and may require me reaching out to another vendor who probably won’t get back to me today.
I do my best to keep strict office hours, which means no email checking after a certain time of day, or on weekends.
I also task batch my emails for the sake of efficiency, so emails that come through during the day may not be viewed until the designated time.
So basically, by answering your emails right when they come in, you’re setting an awesome example of customer service up front. You’re also setting yourself up for failure. That one time you can’t meet the standard you’ve set will seem, in comparison, like bad customer service (even if it’s not). It’s best to set a slightly lower standard up front that you’re sure you can continue to meet throughout your time together. Then, on the one day that you do answer an email more quickly, it’s a happy bonus, not the norm.
I recently sent out a survey to almost all of my clients from 2018, collecting their thoughts on working with Design by Laney. I’ve already told you that I do not answer emails the same day I get them, but what do you think was the number one compliment they referenced?
“…you can tell she LOVES her job because she is so quick to respond with timelines.. ideas.. suggestions and mock ups! I loved the process of working with her!”
“She was so great! Amazing communication.”
“She replied to all of my emails promptly and gave plenty of advanced notice if she was going to be out of the office.”
“So responsive which is so reassuring to a frazzled bride.”
“Great! Probably the most responsive vendor we worked with!!”
I don’t include these just to brag (although HAYYY, thanks everyone for the kind words!!!), but to show you how effective managing your clients’ expectations can be. Almost all of the clients who filled out the survey specifically mentioned response time as a positive of our relationship, even after I purposely ignored their emails for at least half a working day (and if it’s Friday? Definitely not answering til Monday!).
So how do you actually do this?
Task batching! Answering emails in a chunk at the beginning and end of your work day - and no other time - is a huge help.
Turn off your email notifications.
Do not answer emails/calls/texts after working hours or on weekends.
Put your response time in your email signature, as well as your office hours.
My CRM (HEY DUBS), offers a really cool feature that only sends emails during your prescribed office hours - even if you type them up and hit send outside of those.
…and for the record, this also applies to returning voicemails and answering calls. You can answer when you’re available, but if you get a lot of calls from one client, it’s helpful to miss one toward the beginning and call back an hour or two later. You don’t want them to think they can always get you, unless of course, they can always get you (my clients would have to pay a yearly salary for that privilege!).
As for texts, you probably shouldn’t be conducting business over text. It’s not professional, and harder to keep record of. If a client is texting you, and you respond via text more quickly than via email, they will continue to text you because that’s the best way to get ahold of you. If a client texts me, I often respond to the text via email, or wait several hours and ask them to send me the info via email “so I can keep everything in writing.” They typically just start with email after this point and quit texting (YAY).
Every interaction you have with your clients shapes and changes their expectations of you, not just in response time, but also in professionalism, grammar, voice, etc. So much of your job as a business owner is just managing those interactions to make sure they set the right expectations for your clients. A surprised client is typically not a happy client, so fewer surprises = fewer bad reviews, saved money, and way more happy days for the boss!