Prompt responses vs. uninterrupted work

The thumbnail version:

  • Promptly responding to customers is important
  • Uninterrupted work time is also important
  • Balance is important

The full version:

I’ve often urged small business owners, including sign shops, to respond promptly to customers and prospective customers. To a customer or prospective customer (most of whom are impatient nowadays) an unduly delayed response is a prompt to take their business elsewhere.

But that said, there is also the problem of getting work done if you’re constantly interrupted to immediately respond to every phone call or email. This is  a particularly acute problem for one-person shops or shops with staff but where the owner is the only person capable of dealing with most customer inquiries.

These two conflicting demands have to be balanced. There are ways to work out a solution to balance customer impatience with your need for uninterrupted time to get work done. There could be many ways to do this in a manner that suits your shop’s circumstances; here are just a few to consider:

  • Using a phone-answering service and setting times at certain intervals during the day to collect and return calls.
  • An out-of-office message on your email that assures the other party that you will respond within “x” hours (and “x” shouldn’t be more than a few hours).
  • Using the time between scheduled customer responses to concentrate on getting work done.

Customers will generally accept a promised response within a reasonable time and you’ll have stretches of uninterrupted work—something that’s essential if you are to be productive.