02 Sep How Do You Define Service?
We’ve all had an issue that prompted us to reach out to a customer service department. And how does it always begin? With some sort of apology. “I’m so sorry our website was down when you needed to make a payment.” “I apologize your satellite TV is experiencing problems today.” In fact, when I think of customer service, the first thought that pops into my mind is “a professional apologizer.” My hat is off to people who can sit through an eight hour shift and do that all day. For our purposes, it is important to realize that service ≠ you being a professional apologizer to others. If you are wincing as you read this, then this post is especially relevant to you.
When you are a small business owner, a solopreneur, or a consultant, your job is not:
- To allow yourself to get trapped on long-winded phone calls that go nowhere.
- To get sucked into the vortex of unimportant or irrelevant emails every morning.
- To agree to get on 100 inane Zoom meetings a day just so someone can eyeball you on camera.
Automation is your friend.
It’s OK to utilize email drip campaigns! It’s OK to use platforms like Mailchimp or Constant Contact to push out your newsletters. You don’t have to sit there and manually DIY it on the grounds that “it all needs to be personal” or “I have to do it myself in order to control the whole process.” No. No, you don’t.
The phone is the same way. I have a friend who uses a service called Grasshopper to manage his incoming calls so that he doesn’t have to answer the phone and call screen himself. Or run the risk of getting trapped on a call that goes on and on for no reason.
If your phone is like Michael Douglas’ in Fatal Attraction, cut that mess out.
I’m being funny but the point is serious: mindless phone calls can be a huge drain on your productivity. I’ve had bosses in staffing who suggested we use the DND button while we made scheduled calls and bosses who told us to never, ever use the DND button. This is an unpopular opinion here but let’s be honest: rando people who call in unsolicited are rarely placeable candidates. “Y’all got an ad out on Indeed and I wanna know more…” That mess can go on all day long and the onus is on you to safeguard your own time.
Invest in a virtual phone system or an admin whose job it is to answer and screen calls. This will allow you and/or your staff to focus on productive, time-sensitive activities and stay in a proactive work mode.
Email is a reactive activity.
Remember in The Mummy when the zombified people were going through the streets chanting, “Imhotep, Imhotep” over and over? You could just as well replace “Imhotep” with “Email check.”
I’m a recovering Inbox 0 person myself, so I get it. Our curiosity gets the best of us and we have to know what that message says. Resist the temptation. Set scheduled times when you will read and respond to emails. They can be as distracting (if not more so) than a constantly ringing phone.
There’s nothing for you to apologize for.
During my first entrepreneurial foray, I had some marketing materials put together that inadvertently communicated a message of: use me, I’m the best of a bad situation. That’s not how I meant it; I have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor at times and I thought my materials were funny. Unfortunately, the materials did not yield good results and when I asked one of my mentors for a second opinion, he said, “It’s basically like you’re saying there’s shame in your game. It’s like you are telling them that you yourself believe that all recruiters suck.” Ouch. That wasn’t what I intended to do and I was glad I asked someone I trusted for help. When I see these firms saying they are disrupting HR or disrupting staffing by getting on social media and bashing the entire industry, I find it cringe-worthy. Focus on how you can solve your clients’ problems. Sitting around taking a dump on everyone else is not gonna make the cashbox overflow.
What does service mean to you?
If you associate the term service with being a customer service rep who apologizes to angry people all day long, you’re gonna have a bad time. There’s no way around it. People burn out on being someone else’s scapegoat all the time. Service also does not mean that you are subservient to everyone else and you must grovel, beg, or chase other people down. The way I look at it is this: as I am engaging with a prospect, I ask questions like:
• Is this someone I can help?
• Do our personalities mesh well together?
• Can I relate to this person’s issues and offer good guidance?
• If I am not the right resource, is there someone else I can refer this person to?
I’m not getting “commission breath” and thinking about money. I’m not doing everything possible to weed the person in instead of out. And I’m not trying to stick a square peg in a round hole.
To condense it down even more, you could simply ask yourself, “Would this business relationship make sense?” Going into a phone call or a meeting with the right intentions is absolutely crucial.