Maintaining Electronic Obligations

One of the things that our clients love about us that we are responsive. If you send me a message, you are going to get a reply, often times within minutes. People have come to expect that sort of response time from me.

If I don’t respond right away, or if perhaps I run out of time and don’t respond until 10 hours later or more, I get emails from people asking me if everything is okay, because I normally don’t take so long to reply.

That’s the reputation I’ve created for myself, and I’m proud of that.

twbirdMaintaining electronic relationships is an important part of running a virtual business, and shouldn’t be considered an afterthought.
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I’ve been asked how I do it. Is it because I have a lot of free time? Is it because I don’t have that many clients? Uh, no. It’s because I consider each email an obligation. Someone has contacted me, for some reason, usually because they need help. And it’s my job, my obligation, to reach back. At the very least, I tell them I got their message, and if I can’t take care of their needs right away, I let them know when I can.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I send an email or call someone and nobody responds or takes a week to respond. To me, that sends a message that my need or my business is not very important. And I don’t want my clients or potential clients to think they aren’t important. Because they are.

My system for maintaining responsive electronic communications

  1. I turned off auto-check on my email.
    I don’t have my inbox dinging at me all day, because that would be distracting. I have set times, several set times, throughout the day that I have set within my schedule to check and respond to email. I check the mail and delete the junk first. Then I respond to all the messages. If it’s a request for work, I look at my calendar and see what I have available. If I can do it that day, I will and if not, then I’ll quickly respond and let them know when it can be done. Then I’ll put them on my Google calendar and file their email away in my “to do” box.
  2. I use auto-responders for quote requests.
    We get a lot of quote requests here, and it would take a lot of time to respond to each one individually as they come in. As I’ve said, one of my pet peeves is not getting a response when I send a message, especially to people who might want to hire us. The auto-responder goes out right away with additional questions and more information for the potential client. They don’t feel like they are being ignored, and then they will also send me more info I need to prepare a quote.
  3. I use Contactually to maintain relationships with new and existing clients.
    I discovered Contactually at the end of last year, and it’s really cool. You can sort your contacts into various “buckets” and then set up reminders about how to maintain that relationship. I get notifications when I need to follow up. For example, I’ll be reminded to check in with existing clients if I haven’t heard from them in a while. I’ll be reminded to follow up on quote requests. I’ve even set up programs that have automated responses to expedite these contacts.

It’s important for me that my clients, both new and existing, understand they are my priority. So I make a point to respond to messages as soon as possible. If you don’t get a response from me within a few hours, that may mean I didn’t get your message.

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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