Are You Protecting Your Most Precious Commodity, Your Time?
Every Small Business owner will have experienced the challenge of working with a difficult customer now and again.
The danger begins when this one customer or a small number of clients start to impact on your overall productivity and office resources. Do you, like myself, recall situations where you found yourself physically ill or under extreme stress by a single client?
I recall one customer in particular where I became so stressed, that I would have to excuse myself several times a day to be sick. While it is natural to become personally invested in the success or failure of a customer, you can’t allow things to go too far.
Do you know the true cost of a difficult client?
Remember, you are in business to earn a living, not offer unconditional community service for free, nor at a discount. When working with clients as a business owner, you must count the cost from a financial, psychological, and emotional perspective. These costs will include the amount of time you speak on the phone, answer emails, fix problems, give advice, or simply lend a listening ear.
Ensure you have a recording system to keep track of each and every interaction. At the end of a week or calendar month, divide the amount they pay you by the time you have spent with them. The result might just shock you into action!
Have you created clear boundaries?
Every successful partnership or master/servant relationship needs to have boundaries. In business, this is particularly more important than ever. My first question directed toward you is, “Have you set clear, definable boundaries?” These will include areas such as payment terms, times in which customers can communicate with you and what your services/products include. Without defining your boundaries, how can you expect to attract the ideal customer you seek?
Now it’s time to walk the talk.
You have now counted the cost and set definable boundaries. What now? It’s time to walk the talk. Okay, you might be scratching your head, and saying to yourself, “What is Amanda talking about?”
You need to actively monitor and keep track of your time, enforce your boundaries and ensure you charge your customers according to your value. This will mean, you may need to sit and take stock of all your existing service fees and charges.
You may find that you will start to lose a few clients now that you are proactively working on your business, and no longer just in it. Do not be alarmed; this now opens your time to serve the needs of your ideal customers. You would have analysed by this point as well, who those few customers are who you are spending most of your time with.
You are now presented with three choices:
- Review their fee structure and notify them of your new charges moving forward.
- Keep them for now, until you gain more of your ideal customers.
- Liberate them as a matter of urgency.
These steps above are necessary to overcome the guilt many business owners feel, when they make a decision to release a difficult customer.
Some points to ensure before you release a customer are the following:
- Ensure that you have completed all the tasks agreed upon.
- If you are in the middle of a contract, wait until the contract is completed.
In some cases, releasing a client may just mean not doing any more work for them, but in some other cases, it can be a little more complicated. Remember that a good reputation takes time to develop, you do not want to ruin all your hard work, in your haste to action a decision.
Nurturing and protecting your most precious commodity of time is something you need to take ownership of. Ensuring that you treat all your clients with respect, kindness and generosity will be reflected back to you, as long as you set clear boundaries and gracefully enforce them.
Protect your energy, drive and mindset so that you can make your business goals, your new reality.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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