Have you ever wondered what the secret is behind the vast success of some companies/individuals? What are they doing differently?
About four weeks ago I helped a client navigate the logistics of a huge multi-million dollar estate renovation project for a well-known rock and roll celebrity here in Westchester, NY. One of their pool installation vendors had missed several delivery dates. My client and I jumped on the phone with the vendor and asked them to analyze their calendar so that we can come up with a date that works for everyone. Their response was this, “This is our busy time, I can’t guarantee a date as of right now”.
At that moment my client was so fed up that she decided to fire this vendor and explore additional options.
The vendor lost a business partnership worth over 2 million dollars in yearly revenue for one simple reason; the inability to provide a satisfactory Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA). It was then that I was reminded of the days I worked for a large corporation as a client representative. We were specifically trained to place on specific and strict ETAs. We were expected to set an expectation for everything including the length of time that the client can expect to on hold during our telephone call.
That was over 13 years ago and the basic customer service training I learned has become one of my strongest assets in growing my business and strengthening professional relationships.
Why provide an ETA/Deadline?
The Value of setting an ETA before your client asks for it: It says, “I’m on it, I’m proactive, I’m taking care of you”.
The downside of an ETA: If you do not meet your deadline, you have now broken a promised deadline and could be sending a message that you easily break promises and therefore you are not trustworthy.
But let’s be real, the unexpected is part of life and we aren’t going to always hit the nail on the head. Keeping in line with ETA’s and promises come with many challenges and much trial and error. After seven years of running my business and exploring technology solutions, I have come up with some solid solutions to stay on top of my game and would love to share some really cool strategies that has helped me gain the trust of my clients:
I under promise and over deliver: I wish I could say that I’ve never fallen victim to over promising and under-delivering, but I can’t. What I can say is that I know when this happens, our intentions are pure, but we have not calculated all of the necessary aspects of the task. Unfortunately, the real issue is the fact that there is always more to do than time and hands to do it. The key is to force yourself to make the most accurate assessment of what it will take to complete this task while giving yourself sufficient wiggle room. If I think I can complete a project within three days, I will promise 7-10 days. Not only does this give me peace of mind but it also allows for any obstacles in the road to be addressed calmly and efficiently.
I literally live and die by my digital calendar: I would be utterly lost without my calendar. Digital business management is an essential part of keeping my clients happy and staying ahead of my tasks. Digital business management is a quick fix that results in increased productivity. It starts with maximizing the use of your smartphone, adding every activity both work and personal to one digital calendar. A well-managed calendar allows you to judge your availability and limitations accurately. Be as specific and detailed as possible when entering events, birthdays, meetings, deadlines, and alerts. I recently submitted a large proposal for a client and although I knew it would take me three days to complete it; one day to draft it, another to proof it, and the third for my attorney to review, I let my client know that he can expect it within seven days. Before offering him a date, I looked at my calendar and realized I had several meetings, two birthdays, and a dinner/movie date with my husband or girlfriends. The seven day turn around, gave me ample time to edit, draft, and submit the proposal. My client received the proposal a day early and it felt good to keep my word.
I make a quick comeback after a mistake: Life happens and we are never going to calculate our time or tasks accurately 100% of the time although we would love to. The point isn’t that we aren’t going to make a mistake because we will; the point is to not make broken deadlines a habit. The more we break deadlines the more we lose credibility. But what happens when circumstances are truly out of our control, or when we happen to miscalculate our work load causing us to miss a deadline? Make a quick comeback by being proactive and reaching out to your contact person by letting them know that you need to extend the deadline then give a new ETA/delivery date. Try not to make it too long of an extension. I find 24-48 hours is reasonable to ask for.
I work backwards: Learning the tricks of working backwards has helped me improve the delivery of projects but I have also gotten better with time management as a whole. We often aren’t sure of all the details involved with simple tasks let alone a big project. Ask yourself, what will it take to complete this project? What are the steps? How long will each step take? Then give yourself some wiggle room (extra time) to complete each step. Here is a small, simple, personal example: As I mentioned, last week I went out on a dinner/movie date with my girlfriends. We always fuss with each other because only one out of the three of us is timely and that is certainly not me. In order to be on time here is my backwards check list:
I need 10 minutes to drive to my girlfriend’s house (it really takes about 6)
I need 10 minutes to walk out of my apartment and warm up the car (it really takes about 5, this goes to the point of under promise and over deliver)
I need 20 minutes for hair and make up (this sounds about right)
I need 40 minutes to figure out what I’m wearing and get dressed (could be shorter)
I need 30 minutes to shower
That is a total of about 2 hours. This backwards plan allows me to realize that if I tell my girlfriends I will meet them at 7pm then I need to be in the shower between 5pm – 5:15pm. Same applies in business! Understanding that we need to manage time helps us stay on top of our professional game.
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Much success and prosperity to you,
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Business Strategist and CEO
The Ambitious Soul
A business consulting agency based out of White Plains, NY.