How To Set Boundaries with Customers and Clients
Having a great relationship with customers and clients is a top priority for business owners. You want to be professional and personable and make them feel truly aware that you care about their needs. However, in order to have a positive relationship, you need to put certain boundaries in place. Consistent boundaries are essential for building a trusting business partnership.
Hours of Operation
Decide how available you want to be to your clients. Modern technology allows us to be at our customers’ beck and call 24/7. But there’s a reason why companies establish set hours of business. Choose your “hours of operation” and make them known. When choosing these times, keep in mind the needs of your clients and customers. Your hours should accommodate everyone accordingly.
How will you communicate with customers? This day in time, email and social media are both appropriate for business communications. Be mindful of texting or chatting apps. These can sometimes feel too personal and invasive. Ask yourself whether you want clients to contact you the same way.
There are some gray where you can bend the boundaries you’ve set for your business. For example, you might tell clients they can reach you for urgent issues over the phone. You may check your business emails once on each weekend day. In order for this to work effectively, establish guidelines about what IS urgent and what is NOT.
Be Clear of Your Services
As business owners, we like to be there for anything our customers and clients need; however, you should define exactly what services you can and can’t offer. If they want you to do something outside your defined services, decide whether you’ll do it for an additional charge.
Keep Your Distance
Some people don’t understand or respect boundaries, and there’s a good chance some of your customers will fall into this group. You can choose to deal with individuals or not, but be sure to identify these people early on and put strategies in place for dealing with them. Above all, be clear and honest with them about what is possible. Some strategies include:
Divert conversations away from too-personal topics
Make it clear exactly how long you can spend with them (“I’m sorry, I have to go now. I have a meeting in a few minutes”)
Acknowledge that you’ve heard what they said; don’t ignore it (“I can hear it’s very frustrating for you.”)
Propose something positive where possible (“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to help with this but what I can do is…..”)
Get Comfortable Saying “No”
Saying NO in business is one of the hardest things business owners must learn to do. We instinctively just don’t like to say “no.” We all want to be helpful and don’t want to offend someone by rejecting their request. But it’s sometimes necessary to firmly decline, and you should have techniques in place for doing that. You can:
Suggest someone else who can help when you’re busy
Arrange another time when you can do what the person is requesting
Say “no” clearly and explain why
In all honesty, no is a complete sentence. As business owners, we don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why we choose to say no. Providing an explanation is merely a courtesy.
Remember that it’s not an issue of being “nice” or not. Boundaries are the foundations of healthy relationships, so you’re defining the terms of your relationship. This helps to build trust and mutual respect.
Be sure to check out my other related blog posts!