Should you be available 24/7?

January 17, 2016

I bet you've had them - emails sent by your client at 11pm at night. Did you reply immediately, or did you wait until the next day during work hours?

What about that call when your client's name flashes up on your phone just as your family is sitting down to dinner? Did you take it?

If you are an Account Manager who cares about your clients, there are many compelling reasons to make yourself available at any hour your client requires, but is that the best solution?

The first thing to ask is why would your client need to contact you outside of work hours? Some reasons could include:

  • Late at night is when your client has time to think and respond to their emails and messages.
  • Your client is based overseas and works in a different time zone.
  • Your client travels overseas a lot, and their day is sometimes your night.
  • Their normal work hours are different to yours.

  • Your client is a workaholic who never switches off.
  • Your client expects all their suppliers to be responsive at any time.
  • Your client knows you will pick up the phone whenever they call.

If being on-call, or being responsive, is a known and accepted part of your job description, then there is not much you can do about it except to pick up the phone and smile.

If you would prefer to keep your work and home lives separate, then it is possible to effectively "train" your client (or at least train their expectations!).

 

Don't respond

Yikes, that was too easy! The easiest (and highly effective) way to play by your rules is to simply not respond to after-hours client phone calls, emails or texts. They will soon get the message.

However, what message are you sending if you don't respond? You may get to enjoy your quality family time, meanwhile your client is thinking you don't care. If your client does have an "all hours" expectation, then you may find your frustrated client will start looking for another agency to work with which is willing to take their calls.

 

Conversation counters frustration

It's a good idea to have a chat to your client, and talk through their expectations, especially when you are building a new agency-client relationship, or if you are newly appointed to the account.

It may transpire that they are happy to work at 11pm, but they never expect you to respond. In which case you have been working and fretting for nothing.

Sometimes it will be your client who jealously guards their family time and doesn't want to be contacted after hours, so understanding the boundaries often works both ways. 

If their expectation is that you do respond, then talking through the "why" is vital. Most people are reasonable, therefore via conversation, negotiation and understanding there should be some meeting in the middle. 

 

Are you to blame?

To a huge degree your own actions will train your client. By you answering late night emails and phone calls you are sending the message that communication after hours is acceptable to you. 

Only you know what's going to work best for you and your client. If being available 24/7 is fine, then great! However, if you are receiving the "stink eye" from your partner a little too often, then it may be time to reassess your client relationship strategy!

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