Many small business owners have a hard time keeping work limited to business hours. While many administrative tasks may need to be handled during your off time, one way to reduce after-hours business is to avoid dealing directly with clients when the workday is done.
How can you do better at this? Here are a few methods that any business owner can try.
Get an Answering Service
Are you still answering your business phone yourself? If so, you automatically open up yourself to handling both new and returning clients after hours. An answering service is the perfect way to separate yourself from your business in the evenings and on weekends while still knowing the business is being managed.
Work with your answering service to set rules for which specific types of calls you want to be forwarded to you. These types of calls may include existing clients, emergency calls, or customer service issues. Let your answering service know how you want to be notified. You can also share on-call duties with your employees rather than handle it all yourself.
Don't Initiate Client Contact
If you want customers to respect your downtime, set the example by not contacting them during these verboten hours. If you have the habit of returning client calls or corresponding via email or text message during your off hours, your clients will assume that you're still available for business.
Instead, set your own limits about what you will communicate outside of business hours. Turn off notifications on your phone and skip social media connected with your business. Try to limit after-hours activities to administrative tasks like billing or research. Instead of interacting with customers after hours, work on customer contacts as soon as the next business day begins.
Remind Clients of Your Hours
Let clients know your business hours from the beginning of your relationship. While you don't want to be dogmatic, let people know when you handle business and why it's important to you to maintain home life separation. Most customers will respect this because they deal with many of the same work/home balance issues. Post your office hours prominently on your website and in your physical location. Let customers know the best time to reach you, even during the day.
Of course, there will be emergencies and situations when you need to make yourself available, but make these few and far between. If a need arises, handle the immediate crisis and let the customer know that you will complete non-essential tasks the next day during business hours.
Be Available When You're Open
If you want to limit unnecessary contact when your business is closed, make sure you're as available as possible when the doors are open. If customers can't get hold of you when you should be there, they're more likely to continue to try after business hours are over. Customers will also reach a level of frustration that could create an after-hours emergency or customer service issue.
Remember, too, that providing good quality communication helps reassure customers and prevent extra calls. Prepare talking points and make preemptive calls or emails to keep customers up-to-date on their projects, purchases, or services.
Managing customer expectations and needs throughout the day is a challenge for every entrepreneur. You can be successful and still have a quiet home life by following these few tips. For more help handling clients when you're not around, talk with the communication experts at Professional Answering Service today. We can help you design scripts, set office hours, and direct all your customer calls so you can focus on what you need to do — whenever you need to do it.