Business Smarts: Setting Clear Boundaries with Customers - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Business Smarts: Setting Clear Boundaries with Customers

Do you have issues with clients calling day and night with questions and concerns about their projects? Is your inbox flooded with constant emails, or is your phone buzzing with frequent texts from customers?

While timely communication is an important aspect of customer service, lines must also be drawn for your team and your own sanity. Having a client monopolize your staff’s time and focus is detrimental to the rest of your customer base.

It can feel like being available at all times is necessary to keep your customers happy, but establishing boundaries helps build mutual respect.

Set Expectations Early On

If you don’t take the time to outline boundaries from the start, some clients might expect you to be available at any time. This is why early on you need to outline your business’s working hours, response time and the scope of work. Establishing the scope of work is critical to prevent clients from adding on work that was not originally budgeted for.

Listing this information in a legal document that the client signs can help resolve issues that may occur later. Loriena Harrington, LIC, owner of Beautiful Blooms LLC, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, says her company has lengthy descriptions of their services written into their contracts. If a client is disappointed that something wasn’t included, Harrington says they will refer back to the contract.

It’s common for consumers to expect instant responses or results, but it’s up to you to educate them that this is not how your company operates. While you will get back to them promptly, explain that your account managers can’t accept their calls when they are meeting with another client.

Have Clear Communication Channels

There are multiple methods to stay in contact with your clients, and it’s up to your company which of these you want to utilize. Texting is often a way to provide quick responses, but it can also be easily abused and may not be the best for tracking conversations.

One way to help establish separation between work and personal time is to only provide business numbers to your clients. Your account managers deserve work/life balance, so explain to customers they should not be calling your employees’ personal phone numbers.

Because emergencies do happen, outline to your customers how you’d like them to reach your team for these situations. You should list examples of what your company considers true emergencies. Something that seems urgent to the client may not meet your criteria.

Respect Your Own Time

Working late or on off days should be the exception, not the rule, for yourself and your staff. Your clients should respect your employees’ time, but you need to be clear with them when they can and cannot expect you to be in touch.

If you’ve made it abundantly clear to a customer that all emails received after 5 p.m. will not be responded to until the following day, stick to that. Constantly disregarding the work hours you’ve established will cause clients to expect you or your team members to respond no matter how late it is.

Know When to Say No

In some cases, no matter how many boundaries you set and reiterate, some customers will continue to ignore them. You have to know which customers are worth saying no to and walking away. Often by moving on, your team will have the time to find better clients.

You also need to be able to say no to customers making unreasonable requests, such as moving up a project deadline suddenly or expecting your company to add a service free of charge. Sometimes accommodating a customer’s request can help foster goodwill, but other times it can lead to them taking advantage of your business.

Never feel guilty for establishing boundaries with clients that protect your team and your own well-being.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.