How to communicate effectively with clients and colleagues during the vacation? This is something that we all need to consider when we go on holiday: whether we are a small business like mine, or an executive within an organisation. Listen to our podcast episode on this topic.
Of course everyone has a right to have a holiday. So often as business owners and leaders, we fall into the trap of being on holiday but checking our emails and taking messages when we should have a rest. I am NOT advocating that you should do this. But preparing your clients for you being away; delegating cover if you are a service business or letting your customers know you will be closed and the dates is essential.
It is really crucial that you make sure that your customers are reassured that you’re still there for them. I was prompted to discuss this, because a business buddy told me a recent communication that she had received from her accountant. She’d received a rather scary letter from HMRC, which was completely incorrect and required some assistance: some reassurance that she was okay, because she’d obviously paid HMRC all of the money that was due but they were questioning various things. She had a monthly retainer with her accountant, she pays £125 plus VAT per month, she emailed the accountants in mid July and received an automated response. “As you know, it’s a school holiday time. So our focus is on our families, we will be in touch with you in a few days time”. In the meantime, she received her monthly bill. Of course, six working days later, she received a very short email saying “we’re looking into this”. Nothing more. And 2 weeks later she had heard nothing more, so sent another email, for which she received another automated response “We will be back in the office on August 30th”. 6 weeks later. Nothing more; my buddy is looking for another accountant.
The main reason why people leave a company, or as being a customer or a client is because they don’t feel valued.
The reason why I shared this shocking story is that we have to be clear with our customers and clients when we are on vacation, which is good to have a break. And everybody understands that. But they need to know where they stand. And this is related to customer care. The main reason why people leave a company, or as being a customer or a client is because they don’t feel valued. And if you as a business aren’t showing that you value your customers and clients, they’re going to move on. And certainly my friend, having received all of that does not feel valued in any way. In the case of professional services, there are occasionally inquiries such as my friend’s that need urgent attention. And for a firm to respond in the way my friend had experienced does not reassure the client, particularly as she does pay a monthly retainer. An accountant could easily have checked emails once a day, had an automated response with “we will respond within 24 hours” or even had a call minding service where people could call and a message would be relayed to the accountant on call for an emergency.
People do have holidays; we have to prepare our clients and colleagues for this.
The thing is that people do have holidays. And we need to make it clear to our clients :
- How they can get in touch
- How long they can expect to wait before a response
- A hotline where a client can contact in emergency and leave a message for a quicker response
- An alternative person who can respond to your query.
It is worthwhile warning clients beforehand. If you are going on holiday. My regular clients know that I’m on holiday for a fortnight, because they can’t book coaching sessions. I have a very clear automated response, thanking people for emailing, stating dates the time out of the office. And if it is an urgent inquiry, a number to call, where I can then be texted the message and will respond within 24 hours. It reassures customers, it they know where they are. And certainly for professional services, it could be that if somebody is away, they give all of the information about their clients their workload to somebody else who is on call, so that at least they can respond in some way. Most of these questions that are related to professional services are going to be general ones related to HMRC. And they can be reassured quite quickly. Or they’ll say, I will phone up HMRC on your behalf and ask the relevant questions to get the answer. But to fob off a client in the way that my friend has been treated is not a professional way to do things. Having a backup and clear communications is so important and having a communications plan.
Having a backup and clear communications is so important and having a communications plan.
But what about people who work in a team or as a consultant, or within professional services or another organisation having a handover beforehand, including showing where any specific information for projects or clients is located is crucial. In a world where we work virtually. And we have storage on the cloud, or within systems that people can easily access that information. It makes it much easier to do handover. But also for team leaders to manage the workload. While there was someone is on vacation to ensure the client’s needs, services and expectations are still met. It’s not an excuse to say that nobody’s in the office because people are paying good money for this service.
It has been a very long 18 months, and parents have had a particularly challenging time. homeschooling whilst holding down jobs, having a holiday is needed. And everyone understands that. But remember, your clients and customers also need to know and be reassured that you are doing their work that they can contact you easily when they can expect to receive a response. And if necessary, to talk to somebody in the team to reassure them if there is an emergency. So make sure that as part of your strategy, you create a communications vacation plan and put it in place in the holidays. I don’t want you to lose customers or clients or for your colleagues to not value you as much as you deserve. Because you haven’t handed over and you haven’t let other people know that you’re on vacation.