You take pride in being available to your clients whenever they call – and they expect to reach you whenever something pops to mind for them. The problem is that can derail even the most well-crafted daily plan. It seems like your only choice is to either react to client calls all day – and do your work on nights and weekends, or risk making your clients unhappy or not being available when they really need you.
Try these tips to be both responsive to your clients when they need to get you on the phone and stay in control of your calendar.
Have a live person answer your phone to screen your calls.
When your clients call they probably want to hear a live human voice. It doesn’t have to be yours. A well-trained assistant answering your phone can quickly find out the nature and urgency of the call and get it right into you if you are free. If you are not free the assistant should be able to respond to routine questions or schedule a time for you to call the client back.
This solution requires some training for you and your assistant – as well as clear communication about how to handle the most common situations. This includes being clear when you are in the office but you are not really available because you are working on other priorities. When you make this effort your clients will continue to have a positive experience, and you can be more in control of your day.
Use technology when you can’t have a live person answer.
You can still stay in control even when you do not have a person to run interference on your incoming calls. Try updating your voicemail greeting daily so that callers know if there are blocks of time when they can’t reach you – like when you are going to be in other meetings – and how to reach you in a ‘true’ emergency. Ensure that your top clients are in your phone so you see the name before you answer.
Stay in control when you have to answer yourself.
Follow this roadmap to stay in control when you find yourself answering a call and you are on a deadline or to get back onto your schedule. In the first part of the conversation, and before the client dives into their story or issue in-depth, find a way to ask some questions to identify the issue they need to have solved. If you have a deadline, let them know. For example, if you have to be someplace at the top of the hour you might say: “… I want to make sure I can give your issue the attention it deserves. And I do have another appointment at the top of the hour, so let’s get some information now, and then we can reconnect later in the day…” You will then know if the matter is so urgent that you have to adjust the other appointment. Always do this in the early part of the conversation and not at the end when you have no time left – or they may feel like you are brushing them off.
Leave space in your calendar.
When you plan your day leave open time so that you can adjust without blowing up the rest of your day. Then, when the call is over take a look at what needs to be adjusted. If you are back-to-back on appointments or commitments it will be very difficult to adjust. It is better to have fewer blocks in a day, and then add more in than to adjust and re-adjust.
If you’d like more tips on how to take control and free up time in your day check out my latest productivity hack for lawyers. Click here to get your copy