Friday, November 19, 2010

Five Tips About Office Hours

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Don't you just hate it when you arrive at the office and a customer's waiting outside the locked door?  You don't even get the chance to visit the restroom or make a pot of coffee!

How about at the end of the day ... don't you just hate it when a customer arrives two minutes before closing?

Well, kids, get used to it.  When your customers see that your office or business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., they believe you really mean it when you say you're available between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

They also believe the following:
  • You're in business because you want to provide them with a product or service,
  • You'll do your best to help them, and
  • You care.
You know what?  They have a right to believe those things.  How long do businesses and business people last if they don't care about their customers?  What kind of reputations do businesses and business people earn when they're unfriendly, provide lousy service, and care more about themselves than their customers?

Here are 5 tips to help you take care of yourself while also taking care of your customers and meeting their needs:
  1. Under promise and over deliver.  For example, if you're willing to work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., advertise your office or business hours as being from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Yes, you'll be there from 8 to 5:30, but you don't have to worry about the customers who are waiting outside the door or showing up as you're closing the door.  Saves you frustration AND makes your customer VERY HAPPY when you're not watching the clock or frustrated by his arrival.  Makes him even happier when you announce he's important enough that you don't mind staying past closing.
  2. Schedule your lunch hour so that it doesn't coincide with your customers' lunch hours.  Have you ever gone to the bank during the noon hour?  Isn't it odd that, at the busiest time of the day, you see fewer tellers working than you would if you visited at 9:30 a.m.?  Yes, everyone wants to eat lunch.  If you want your customers to have a more convenient and timely visit during their lunch hours, don't eat lunch when they do.  Be available!
  3. Don't keep changing your office or business hours.  If your current schedule isn't working, do your research.  Ask your clients their preferences.  Ask your employees their preferences.  Figure out what you prefer.  Then figure out what type of schedule will be most beneficial to everyone.  Yes, you and your employees need to make some sacrifices or compromises.  But aren't your customers the reason you're in business?  Aren't they the people paying your salaries?  Don't lose sight of the fact that your customers--and their happiness--is essential to your business success.
  4. Don't take phone calls during client meetings.  If you're meeting with a customer, either during a scheduled appointment or a surprise visit, do not answer the telephone.  Customers want to know you care about them and, when you answer the telephone in the middle of a conversation or meeting, you communicate that someone else is more important.  Always remember that the customer who shows up in person has expended prior thought, time, and money to visit.  The person on the other end of the phone has expended only time.  Besides, it's downright disrespectful.
  5. Be there.  This may seem pretty basic but, if you have posted office or business hours, be there!  Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than arriving at your office between the 9 and 4 you say you're open and finding you gone.  If you absolutely must leave the office/shop/store unattended during regular hours, be respectful enough to post a sign indicating a) when you'll return, and b) an emergency phone number.
Truly caring about your customers, and showing you care, is what sets you apart from your competition.  Of course, if you want to be lumped in with your competition, do the same things they're doing!

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