One of the first things you do when you start freelancing is set up ways for your clients to communicate with you. You might have a website with a contact form. You probably have an email (or five). A cell number? Sure, why not?
The work starts coming in. At first, it’s a trickle, then a steady stream and soon a flood. Now you’re into scheduling and planning, trying to fit everything in. You might use some productivity tips and get some gadgets to help manage your thriving business. Soon, some advice catches your eye. It suggests that scheduling email runs to read and reply to communication may boost your productivity.
And it does! You can work freely and focus on your project without distraction. Time flies when you’re having fun. The next thing you know, you look up and…Oops. The day’s almost gone. And you haven’t answered your emails.
When you don’t reply to people, be it via email, telephone or face-to-face conversation, you’re conveying a strong message to clients and potential customers. It sounds like this:
You don’t matter to me.
One of the most common phrases we hear from anyone who emails us is, “Wow, I didn’t expect you to reply so quickly!” It puzzles me. Why wouldn’t I reply? My clients are my financial lifeblood. Why would I ignore them if they have a question or a need?
But I’ve realized that many freelancers don’t share the values I place on good customer service. In fact, I’ve heard many people mention that lack of timely communication was the overall reason they stopped working with their freelancer.
This makes no sense. You want to work, don’t you?
There are a few ways to provide good customer service to clients without being chained to your desk. You can schedule check-in time to clean up your inbox, sure. Have at least three email sessions a day – morning, noon, and end of day – to deal with incoming email in a timely manner.
Another good way to reassure clients that you’re alive and not ignoring them is to set your email’s auto responder to “on” when you sit down to work. Type a nice little auto-response message for emails that says something like, “Thanks for your email. I’m in the middle of the world’s greatest creation but I expect to take a break within three hours. I’ll get back to you then.”
“Three hours!? James! Are you crazy? That makes no sense. Three hours is nothing!”
I disagree. It’s rather common for people to lose track of time when either working hard or when surfing online. Three hours, to your web-working client, might feel like three minutes. Ten hours feels like a week. A whole day?
Your client will begin to wonder if you’re even alive any more – and he’ll go somewhere else to work with someone who treats him better. Is that really what you want?
If you answered with a resounding, “Yes!” then we can’t help you. Sorry. If you answered, “Hell, no!” then get your butt over to James’ blog, Men with Pens. Pick up more great tips for better web business. Better yet, grab his feed by subscribing here. And of course share your thoughts in the comment section below!