I had my eyes opened by a client late last month. A prospective client in the US had emailed three of my existing clients with a list of questions relating to the services I provide for them. The responses they gave I was very happy with – feedback is always good for your business, and the soul! However, there was one comment one of my clients made, that had me thinking a little more about how I handle my clients, and the workload that comes in. I’m going to share it with you as I think it might also prompt you to think about how you service your own clients and the information you seek from them in order to provide what they need.
One of the questions asked was this:
If you had to list an area of improvement for her, which area would it be?
And the response was:
Kathie needs to educate her clients on the time frame she needs to complete a job. In other words, clients should provide instructions in good time so as to allow Kathie time to complete the job without the â€œurgentâ€ requirements due to late instructions.
My immediate thought was that I thought I did seek my client’s instructions as towards their timing and needs, but when I re-read this message I saw something else in it. It wasn’t my asking for their timeframe, it was my letting the client know my timeframe. In other words, if a client is asking for me to get something done I need to tell them of my need for being advised in advance that the job is coming up. This isn’t always necessary but there are times when clients want something urgently and if I’m already working with other client work and hadn’t known of their forthcoming need, then it’s hard to meet their request without it becoming an urgent need. I should then advise them for future similar needs it would be good if they could let me know a week or so in advance, so I can ensure that I’ll be able to meet their timeframe. And if I diarised that item, I could then contact the client a couple of days beforehand and remind them that they were planning to get such-and-such to me by xxx and is it still going to happen?
So, you ask the client when to expect work from them and you set aside time in your diary for that work, and then it doesn’t arrive at that time; it might arrive a few days later, or in one client’s case over 2 weeks later – what then? Keeping in contact is the best answer, I believe. If the work doesn’t arrive as expected contact the client and ask them what’s the ‘new’ timeframe now so you can reschedule it. Remind them that you need to receive it xx amount of time prior to it being completed, being sent out, actioned or whatever. The value of a VA is the same as a PA in this case – reminding the client of their commitment to their own business and in order to achieve what they’re setting out to do, you need to have xxx by xx.
Some years ago I had a client who used to ring and want something done on demand, even to the point that he wanted me to drop everything I was doing and drive down to his office, because of an urgent need at his end. One time I politely told him that I wasn’t sitting in my office waiting for him to call, but if he’d like me to do that, I could quote him a rate for 40 hours a week and I wouldn’t take on any other clients. He immediately apologised and saw things from a different point of view :-). However, what I should have done was ask him to diarise his needs such as newsletters, promotions of competitions, etc and then let me know a week in advance that he had need of my services for those things and could I book it in? He was just so used to ringing and saying he had to get something out tomorrow – I got the impression he was probably like that with everyone.
How do you deal with clients who have needs but can’t always deliver the work when you’re expecting it? Or they’d known about something for several weeks but only tell you the day before? Perhaps you were even vaguely aware something was coming up, but because you were concentrating on the day-to-day things you had in your office, you just hadn’t noted that something might have been a bit further down the track? I’d love to hear your comments. KMT
time management, clients, diarise, planning, educate