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Let your customers speak to you during the vacation

We are reaching that time of the year, when colleagues, clients and suppliers are going on holiday. For some services and clients, they wish to speak to someone, even if you are on vacation. So what should we do?

In the latest Superstar Communicator podcast I share top tips to ensuring your clients’ expectations are met whilst you are on vacation. Listen to the podcast here.

As you possibly know from my blogs and podcasts, I now contribute to the Rungway APP community. And one poster asked how on earth she could manage client expectations when the HQ of her company, in Sweden, is closed for the next 5 weeks and then another key office in Italy is closed throughout August. It really made me think about how to keep projects going when colleagues are not contactable for long periods of time. Whilst some clients will also be on holiday, others will expect (quite reasonably) to talk to a project manager or account manager about a specific project. Here are some tips – and do listen to the podcast.

Of course there are a variety of automated and technical systems you can put into place, including:

  • Automated email messages – remember to manage the expectation of the person contacting you, with details of someone else they could contact and when you will be returning to the office.
  • Voice mail messages, where it is very clear how long you will be on vacation for, and also who else to contact.

I am surprised at the number of people who ‘wind down’ before going away, rather than doing a proper hand over. Is this because they don’t want others to take over a project or to get the credit for doing the work? I don’t know! However, this is all about the client, and if they contact the office and no one is there to answer a question – particularly if the person answering the phone has no information, it is not a good moment for the client. AND they might look elsewhere for future projects. There are some projects AND clients who DO want to speak to someone: an automated message just won’t do, so what do you do to manage their expectations?

If you are picking up someone else’s workload or project whilst they are away insist on:

  • Having a proper handover
  • Having information easily accessible
  • Agree how much authority you will have over any decision making.
  • Insist they tell every client they are handing over to you whilst they are away!

I have found storing all information in Drop box and having a project management system such as Asana useful because the colleague left in the office can see where a project is progressing and if necessary note any conversations, changes of plan and decisions.

If you are the person going on holiday, in order to properly prepare others:

  • Contact all of your clients saying when you are going away
  • Introduce them to the person taking over from you whilst you are away
  • If there are ongoing projects arrange a meeting with the client before you go away – this could be Skype, telephone
  • Do a proper hand over of work to your colleague with information on each project, clients and store in a place where they have access
  • Decide how much responsibility for decisions your colleague will have
  • Change all automated email messages and voice mail messages so people who contact you KNOW who to contact and that their expectations will be managed.

For more ideas listen to the podcast.

 

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