In our effort to provide excellent customer service to our clients, it’s easy to forget to set boundaries around client actions (or inaction) to support business sustainability and personal well-being. This is especially true when promising client turn-around times, rush work, or incorporating last-minute requested changes.

The result? You experience fatigue, overwhelm, unnecessary stress, and perhaps even symptoms that make it challenging to continue to show up fully.

Failing to discuss expected deliverable times, or being overly optimistic in your capabilities to sustain fast turn-around on projects, often leads to resentment towards individuals you love to work with, but with whom you fail to manage expectations.

There is a solution! Keep reading to learn why determining deliverable timelines is so important to your health and business, and the satisfaction of your clients.

First, know that I deeply value excellent customer service. From a personal perspective, long-term client relationships can lead to beautiful friendships. From a business perspective, satisfied customers result in great referrals; whereas lackluster service can result in client attrition. Finding and onboarding a new client requires time, resources, and a learning curve as you learn about your client and their business. These incurred costs reduce net revenue.

As a business owner, it’s up to you to determine what defines excellent customer service and how to deliver that in a way that values your client and honors your well-being.

If you constantly focus on providing ‘excellent’ service by completing client work in the shortest timeframe possible or by adding on extra services at no charge, squeezing ‘rush’ projects into your production calendar because you can’t say no, or otherwise giving your services away at the cost of your health, you need to set better business boundaries.

3 Steps to set client deliverable timelines for excellent customer service.

Follow these three steps to determine appropriate turn-around times that support your business, well-being, and excellent customer service.

Step 1, 2 and 3 - words on wooden blocks - 3D 3 steps to excellent customer service
3 Steps to Setting Deliverable Timeframes for Excellent Customer Service

1. Identify your capabilities and limitations.

The first step is to identify limitations and obstacles that might impact your capacity – or billable hours. It’s important to complete this step BEFORE beginning to work with your next client and before signing your next client agreement.

Ask yourself questions about your capabilities and limitations:
  • How many billable hours are you (and your team) reasonably available to work per week?
  • What are obstacles that are likely to impact your week? These obstacles can include health challenges, caregiving, or other responsibilities. If health challenges impact your work ten hours per week or three days a week, you’ll want to account for this time in the next step.
  • Are there limits to how long you can work at a time? What are they? For example, if sitting at the desk for 5 solid hours results in you not being able to work the rest of the day, how does this impact your billable availability?
  • Do you have health conditions that present as extreme fatigue, pain, or decreased cognitive function and impact your work? How often? Can you assign a percentage of time? Even better, can you define what boundaries on your time you must set to reduce or eliminate these symptoms?
  • Know what client work requires you to feel your best, and which tasks you can perform on days you aren’t feeling a 10! For example, you might work on more creative or analytical projects on your good days, and more task-oriented work on your off days. Being able to segregate your work can increase your overall billable capacity.

The most challenging part of this exercise is often honesty. The ability to be honest with yourself as to your capabilities and limitations. It’s up to you to know your limitations and to set personal and business boundaries that protect your health and well-being.

2: Choose deliverable timelines that protect your business, reduce stress, and create space for success.

Now it’s time to determine project deliverable times that support your business model, team, and well-being. There will likely be times to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis so you can offer excellent service, but these should be the exceptions, not the norm.

To get started, ask yourself questions such as these for EACH of your core products or packages:
  • How many billable hours are required to complete this work?
  • How many days are required?
  • Are client meetings necessary? If so, how many?
  • Do you have to wait for something from the client to begin or at different stages? If so, how much time does the client need to provide information, give feedback, or approve the work?
  • How can you account for obstacles and limitations to getting the work done? Refer back to Step 1 to ensure you account for your defined obstacles. For example, if health challenges impact 30% of your time, you might extend a deliverable timeframe from 10 to 15 days to account for your health challenge without impacting your clients.
  • If you have a team, is the timeframe reasonable based on their capacity and capabilities?

With this information, determine standard turn-around timeframes for each core service. These should be timeframes that are reasonable for the client, are aligned with your business model, and support your well-being. These timeframes can vary greatly, such as 3 days, 5 days, 1 week, 30 days or more. It’s your choice and you can set different times with different clients.

A short story about setting AND changing deliverable timeframes for your well-being and success.

Upon starting my marketing business in 2009, I offered a 24-hour turnaround for some of my work. I always completed the work in that short timeframe but at the expense of my health. I increased my deliverable time to 48 hours. As my business grew, I increased it again to 72 hours. Eventually, I increased my deliverable time to 7 days after receipt of content. I also added a clause that if the client misses a meeting or is late with a deliverable, their work would be added to my production calendar based on availability.

Guess how many complaints I received. Zero! I never once received any negative input on these changes. However, my clients knew that if they did have special circumstances, I would do my best to accommodate them.

If you are still having doubts about setting this type of boundary around your client’s work, think of it this way. If a hair salon serves 500 customers per month, and 80% of those clients postpone their appointment to the last three days of the month, can the salon serve every client to their satisfaction? No! And neither can you. You have to implement strategies to manage your pipeline.

3. For excellent service, communicate and agree to expectations.

Do you want your clients to be satisfied with your services? Then openly discuss standard turn-around times with your prospect and put those times into your client agreement.

You can have different timeframes for different types of work within the same agreement or service contract. If your business is expanding or you see signs that a prospect might require extra work, build in additional time above and beyond your standard deliverable times.

Failing to communicate openly with your prospects might result in your prospect expecting a 3-day turnaround when you need five days to complete the work. If you communicate reasonable deliverable timelines that support your business and the prospect demands a faster delivery time, that prospect is not a fit for your business and well-being.

Be thankful you determined this before signing an agreement, and gently refer this prospect to a business similar to yours that might be able to meet their time requirements. That is the beauty of open communications and setting expectations. It is also an important part of building a sustainable business.

Now it’s your turn

These are a few actions you can take to work towards structuring your business for success. These strategic actions support peace of mind and provide the space to protect your well-being and better serve your client. Are you ready to take action? Calendar time right now when you can sit down and calculate your ideal deliverable timeframes. If you need guidance determining the best timeframes or want to discuss how to balance your approach to building your business for your well-being, contact me using the form below.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it with your audience or a colleague who might find value in reimagining how they provide excellent customer service.

For ongoing inspiration, strategies, and stories on how to build your business to support a life of balance and well-being, sign up for BalanceUP Community News.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not legal advice. However, these strategic tactics can be incorporated into your agreements for strong client relationships. Please work with your legal team to implement appropriate language. If you are interested in a quick, easy, and affordable legal solution to create your agreements, you can use this affiliate link for Plainy Legal.

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Simone Giangiordano, better known as Simone G, is the creator of BalanceUP® Community. She is a business and lifestyle coach who has helped hundreds of clients create a business that works for their unique lifestyles. This despite being told by multiple doctors and professionals that she should not work and to just get on disability because of her chronic health issues. She has used her nearly 2 decades experience in the corporate world and more than 15 years’ experience as an entrepreneur, trainer, and business coach to create the Building Balance to Empower® programs, including her signature program The Power of I Can't® to help individuals with heath challenges create and live a life of peace, joy and yes… success.Learn more about Simone G's story.

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