I manage the SEO projects of 10 clients. Some are small clients, others are big, but one thing they all have in common is that when they have a question, request, or concern, it is my job to reply promptly with an email that effectively addresses their concerns. This level of customer service is critical to our business model, as we rely on residual income from clients who stick with us, and keep paying us, because they are happy. There are two things that make our clients, and all clients happy; results, and accountability. Results in the form of increased traffic and more business, and accountability in us doing what we say we’ll do. This is where the challenge of balancing customer service with email time-sucking comes in.
A few months back I identified that I was spending far too much time throughout the day responding to emails from clients. As a result, their overall project progress suffered. My decline in productivity was not a result of the overall amount of time I was spending addressing emails, but rather the distraction from my work (real SEO work) that checking and addressing the emails was causing. If you spend 1.5 hours on emails throughout a given day, you would expect that whether that time was spent between 9am and 10:30am or spread throughout the day, would make little difference. In my case, this expectation was incorrect. Taking 5 minutes while in the middle of another project to respond to an email was costing me far more time, because I was being distracted from real work. Here is what I did to fix it, without sacrificing customer service.
1. Make a Rule
My rule is this: Every morning when I get into work I will address every email that is in my inbox, regardless of how much time it takes. When my inbox is clear of those messages, I am done addressing emails for the rest of the day. By addressing emails in this fashion, not only am I able to do it faster because my focus is on one task, I am also not being distracted from far more productive tasks.
2. Make an Exception
If there are urgent messages from clients that come in later in the day, I will respond to those messages.
3. Make a Email Checking Schedule
My inbox does not stay open on my monitor. I have an alarm set on my phone to go off twice between 12pm and 4pm. When that alarm goes off, I check my email for any urgent messages.
So far, I have had zero complaints from my clients, and my ability to “get shit done” has improved drastically. Being that our business model is centered around customer satisfaction, and ultimately customer retention, this simple method has been a perfect solution for me.
Bonus Tips for Reducing Email Time-Wastage
- Take an hour or so one day, and audit all of the sites who regularly send you emails that you delete without reading. Figure out how to unsubscribe, and do so.
- Turn off email push notifications on your smart phone.
- DO NOT keep your inbox permanently open on your browser.