Today I read an interesting article, Inanity of Immediate Response by Daniel Markovitz, Stanford and Ohio State professor. While written for the Institute of Management Consulting (IMC) members, it also applies to wineries, which are first in the hospitality industry and second in wine production.
Markovitz laments the common consultant cry, "I didn't get anything (strategic) done today because I had to respond to my clients". We all get a flood of communication these days, and it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the amount, frequency and desire to respond. Since it doesn't look like the tide will recede, those of us serving clients and customers need to re-think how we process all of this communication.
Your inbox and phone should not plan your day -- your brain should. Just because you receive a communication, it doesn't mean you need to interrupt your work, particularly if you are deep in higher level strategy or an important project. (I typically schedule strategic thinking and planning work in the early morning and conduct it with my calendar and email account logged out to resist the urge to check them.)
Instead of constantly checking email throughout the business day, do so on a regular but timely basis -- say every hour or two, or once in the early part of the day and again at the close. If someone has a true emergency, they will phone.
When phone calls with requests come in, schedule the follow up in your calendar and communicate the timeline to your customer while you have his attention (versus the type A urge to drop everything and handle incoming needs immediately). Excellent service does not have to be immediate.
Managers should speak with staff about communication policies and develop a corresponding protocol. For example, phone calls are returned the same business day and emails within 24 hours. In establishing process, you will help your team prioritize which will enhance efficiency, service and ultimately, case sales!
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