How to train clients that you have a work-life balance

19th Apr 2021
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Henley Business Brokers
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Long before the word "Covid" entered our everyday lexicon there were rumblings about "work / life balance " with polarised opinions from those whose mindset is firmly rooted in a full 9 to 5 ( or longer ) day to those who were pushing for a 4 day week.

But what about being at the beck and call of clients, not 24/7 but in many case 18/6 or perhaps 18/7? I think this is now the elephant in the room that has been overlooked and whose time has now come to knock on the head.

Covid is now more than an everyday word and it defines the lives of every single person on the planet. It has proven that many people, in particular accountants, can actually work successfully from home, (ignoring the social aspect of being in the office, which is beyond the scope of this article) as are clients and many of them may well be burning the midnight oil as I do , due to domestic commitments during the day - funny how they weren't an issue when we went to the office all day long but now we are working at home the equilibrium has changed fundamentally.

So can we train clients to respect our work / life balance ?

Beyond a shadow of doubt the answer is YES and I know this because I did it back in the day. A member of staff once remarked to me that I had trained the clients well and when I queried that he explained that they knew exactly what to expect service-wise and when we would and when we would not answer the phone. None of my clients were given my mobile number.

Once, one of them who did have it (for non business reasons) called me out of hours and I explained that it would have to wait until the morning, which made absolutely no difference to the nature of his request. He indignantly told me that they would take their business elsewhere and I told them if that was the case, so be it. Needless to say at 9am the phone rang with a sheepish and contrite client humbly submitting their request. This was such a rare occurrence that to this day I remember who it was and where I was parked at the time!

Let's step back and analyise what lies behind a client's urgent request.

It is typically a problem and it is worrying them and they require urgent reassurance or at least they need to know it is being addressed. So, if they can send you a text message out of ohurs for urgent matters, from their aspect it is being dealt with already, especially as you can acknowledge it without having to get into a long and potentially complex conversation requiring notes and eating into your private "quality" time. It also gets them on the queue for an early call the next working day. Furthermore, in extremis it allows you to call back at silly o'clock demonstrating the power of "underpromise and over-deliver" .

Training them is easy.

You set out the terms of reference as to how and when they can contact you and crucially the response time. If they abuse the system they will soon realise that you are not pandering to them and that the system is for real. They will respect you. 

Not unlike sleep training with babies - although it took me 2 attempts to get it right! 

Remember, nobody is going to leave their accountant becasue the phone was not answered at 9pm !