Sarah asks, “QUESTION: WITH SO MANY OF US WORKING FROM HOME RIGHT NOW, HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE AVAILABILITY TO YOUR CLIENTS AND SET EXPECTATIONS ON RESPONSE TIME?”
Use great calendaring software that offers allocated blocks of time. You set your working hours first, then set up what size windows you want to offer. Your calendaring software should do the rest, showing available slots that they can book. Hubspot, Google Calendar, Outlook, and many others all support this either natively or with a service like Doodle or Calendly.
For response times, it depends on what’s in the service level agreement. If there isn’t one, then set expectations appropriately for what you’re able to do based on what unscheduled blocks of time you have throughout the day. If your calendar is completely full, then you have to set expectations for next-day response times.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.
In today’s episode Sarah asks, question was so many of us working from home right now? How do you communicate availability to your clients and set expectations on response times? So, this is a couple things.
Number one, you have to know what was contractually agreed.
If you are in the service industry and your company has signed a service agreement with the client specifying what the service level agreement is like, you’ll receive a response within an hour, etc, then you have to adhere to that, right? You have to do what is in the paperwork.
And if you have to, then you know, I would strongly suggest modifying your calendar so that there are blocks of time that are locked off, you know, 15 minutes every hour for client response time so that people cannot schedule a meeting over you.
The number one rule of calendar And scheduling is this.
If you do not control your time, your time will control you.
Right if you do not set limitations and expectations and program them into a system and then live by that system, you will get overwhelmed very, very quickly.
One of the things we do at Trust Insights is in our calendar invite system when you want to have an invite, they have the oddest times they’re offset by five or 10 minutes.
Again, so that if you’re if you happen to have back to back meetings, you want that 10 minute buffer after each meeting to you know, use the restroom, for example, grab a cup of coffee, whatever the case is, you have to have that buffer in place and if you do not put it in, no one is going to give it to you.
So you control your time or your time controls you.
That’s the rule.
You should be using great calendaring software that offers allocated blocks of time when it comes to sort of work life balance when you’re working from home.
You have to set your working hours first.
So in your calendaring system, you set your working hours, I’m in the office from 9am to 4pm, or 9am to 5pm, whatever it is your business operates as a standard operating procedure.
And then you put blocks in your calendar that say, or your calendar software, depending on who you use may offer those working hours settings and say these are my working hours.
When someone goes to schedule a meeting outside of those hours automatically gets rejected says outside of working hours.
That solves a lot of drama by itself because you can say, Yep, this is what I’m available.
You block those things off.
The next thing is to set up an invite system.
You decide what Windows you want to invite people, you know, 25 minutes, 50 minutes, 40 minutes, etc.
And then your calendaring software should do the rest.
Your calendaring software should be able to say here’s let’s create an invite link for a 25 minute meeting or a 40 minute meeting or a 15 minute meeting and then you give That link to your clients, you give that link to your co workers etc.
And then they get to choose when they want their meeting but within the boundaries of the calendar so the software will not let you over book another meeting.
software will not let you book a meeting outside of working hours.
If you have specific times you can say like I’m available from one to 3pm every day, and then people can choose their slots within that time.
That’s the best way to do it.
Because then you are giving limited control to your customers but you’re giving them control you’re giving them their choice of picking from available times, but with the understanding that this is what’s available.
Now you can and you should depending on the client and their importance to your company.
Be ready to make exceptions.
But for the most part, you want to stick to the system as well.
Best you can because that way, everyone is clear on what the expectations are.
This is when services available, etc.
This is when to stop.
If your calendaring system does not offer that, like for example, I don’t think Microsoft Outlook offers those exact features, you can use third party services like doodle or calendly.
To help gap fill other services like Google Calendar, and HubSpot, and such offer that scheduling services natively, it’s natively available within the software, when it comes to response times, again, depends on what’s in the contract and the service level agreement.
If if you have a 10 minute mandated response time, you have a you have to adhere to that.
And so one of the things you would need to do is in your calendars, set blocks of time that people can’t schedule over, you know, 10 minutes in the middle of the hour, 10 minutes at the end of the hour.
And then, you know, work your meetings around that as best as you can.
So that you can address those needs.
has to happen.
Now if your calendar is completely full, then need to move some stuff around to make time for that service level agreement.
If you don’t have one, then you need to figure out what that agreement would look like informally with setting expectations with your clients.
So the easiest way to do that is to look at your last two or three weeks of a calendar time appointments.
And see how many free blocks of time and how long they are throughout the day.
If your calendar is nine to five, completely solid, then you can’t do anything except me Oh, next day response time.
So you have to set the expectations.
If on the other hand, you have set down an allocated, you know 15 or 20 minutes every two hours and you can say yes, we’ll set up a a two hour response time.
Your concerns will be answered within those two hours it will be acknowledged acknowledged within those two hours then you’ll book the work from that If additional work needs to be booked on top of what’s already in there, this requires you to have great time tracking and such because one of the things that happens, especially in agency life, is that clients like to have the service available, but then they don’t like to pay for the hours that you use.
So having discipline around your calendar allows you to reduce both problems.
If you say to a client, hey, you have 10 hours of paid service time, because a lot of agencies work on the odd hours.
How do you want to use them this month, you know how many hours you want to book for actual work and how many hours you want to book for meetings and calls.
Again, you’re giving limited control to the client saying here’s what’s available, you have these 10 coins to spend and you spend them in the way that you want them to be spent.
If the client says I want to spend a time on on meetings, cool, you’ll get a lot of meetings and you’ll get to want to work but you will not get 10 hours worth of work in addition to eight hours of meetings, it’s, it’s just setting those expectations up front.
If you have a client that does not respect those limits, then you and your manager need to work with them and be more clear about those expectations to say like, Hey, here’s what you have allocated.
Here’s what is you have paid for if you want to pay for more.
You’re welcome to never say no to a client.
Say, here’s how you can get more by paying more.
And what tends happen an awful lot of the time his clients like yeah, you know, nevermind.
And sometimes there’s a legitimate need to say cool, I will pay more.
So you don’t say no, you just say it will be more expensive.
That typically ends the discussion right there most of the time.
It certainly would.
It was case in the public relations world.
At the end of the day, literally.
It is all about you having the discipline to run your calendar.
So setting expectations and then using a system that allows you to control your time.
Remember to book things like lunch, right? Set 45 minutes on the calendar every day for lunch and then stick to that.
Make sure that again, the software you’re using if somebody tries to schedule over an existing blockage is automatically rejected.
Don’t just bounce it back, say, you know, that block is not available.
In many cases, I know for Google Calendar, you can for Outlook you can you can share a link to your calendar that it just only shows free busy and to say like, Look, here’s what’s available, right and if they if your your clients can see Oh, wow, there’s, you know, no available for a week and a half.
Then either they can pay more to override something else or they can accept that the time is simply not there.
Make sure also that you block work time If you just let your calendars stay unscheduled, time will control you.
So if you know you’ve got a major client project coming up in two weeks, block four hours a day for that work time, so that you get that work done.
And that way again, if you’re living by your calendar, you’ve set expectations, your client will say, wow, there’s no availability in the mornings for the next week and a half or two weeks or whatever.
That way you get your work done.
That is especially true in any kind of a project based business.
You absolutely need to have work time booked so that people can see, okay, I can’t interrupt during these periods of time, something I run into a lot, making sure that I have you know, four hours at a time, because some of the work that I do with coding requires you to sit down and think and and not be interrupted.
Finally, make sure that whatever system you choose is compatible with how you work because if you don’t use the system, the system can’t work for you.
The system will work against you.
So however it is you work better If you work best and 20 minute pomodoro increments or you work best in to our deep work limits or whatever the case may be, figure out how the system works that is best suited to your style of work and then adjust your calendar appropriately.
But for sure, set those limits and let the software do the rejection for you.
If you have follow up questions, leave your comments below.
calendaring is is can be tricky, especially in agency life.
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