How Long Would You Wait?

“He’ll be right with you. Please have a seat.”

How often have you heard those two sentences in your life? Probably plenty of times. It’s common. It’s usually never an issue to wait for someone either – after all, everyone’s busy.

But imagine the secretary gets up and walks away without a backward glance. Maybe she went to work in the back room. Maybe it was her lunch break. Whatever the reason, you’re sitting by yourself, all alone.

You’re still waiting, too. No one is coming to greet you. In fact, you can’t even hear if there is anyone else in the building. There is no sign of life.

How long would you wait?

I can bet that after an hour or two by yourself, completely clueless as to where everyone disappeared to, you’d be swearing one thing:

“I am never coming back here again.”

If you are in business, you’d better make damned sure no one’s sitting in your waiting room fuming. All sorts of technology exists to automate email replies, auto responders and answering systems. There is no excuse for making a client wait.

Some people still haven’t figured out that there are at least 10 people (and probably closer to a few hundred) waiting to fill their shoes. Letting more than a day go by without answering an email or a call leaves a client with the impression that you’re not interested, that you’re not serious about your job, or even worse, that you don’t take the client seriously.

Clients are a serious matter, people.

Clients are your bread and butter. If they start turning elsewhere towards the person that does give a damn, that does answer replies and that does send quick updates, that leaves you in one situation: workless.

Want to know something else? Word-of-mouth is very powerful. You want and need people telling other people good things about you. Don’t set yourself up to have people talking about how slow you are to answer or how long they sat there waiting for you to get back to them.

Automate your email. Set up auto responders that at least tell the person not to panic, that you’ll answer as soon as you can. If you can’t get to work (or the computer) that day, call someone. Ask them to log in for you and set up the auto responder. Walk them through it if you have to.

I’ve had a woman email me after their husband had a heart attack. I’ve had a client email me after his sister had a serious accident. I’ve had to call Harry and give instructions when my own mother was in the hospital.

Dedicated people are people with jobs.

Your job is to mind your business even when you can’t be there to mind it. If you can’t answer emails in less than 12 hours, even if you’re writing to ask for more time, then you have a problem. It may be a management issue, a time-organization issue, or it may be that you’ve taken the mantra “don’t check your email every five minutes” to the other extreme. (A hint: “Never check your email” is a bad idea.)

Whatever the problem is that causes you to take longer than 12 hours to answer an email, fix it.

… unless you’re tired of working, that is.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.