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Client Boundaries

Has this ever happened to you? A new client is so excited that he or she calls you every single day, and even multiple times a day for a full week or more? Maybe even texts or messages you late into the night? You want to provide exceptional service so what do you do?

Your time is not only money—it is health, career satisfaction and family harmony. In this era of instant gratification, client enthusiasm and lack of business-minded manners can set you up for a round-the-clock disaster, unless you take professional control and set boundaries.

Day 1

Begin this process from Day 1. Explain how your planning process works, what you will do, and what your expectations are from your clients. Be as concrete as possible. What you fear will sound strict is actually usually a relief. Would you rather know that emails will be answered before 5 PM EST or be concerned at 5:30 PM that maybe your inquiry wasn’t received? Most clients who “abuse” office hours don’t even realize they are doing it. They simply didn’t clearly understand the boundaries.

Avoid “unlimited” claims

When you are trying to entice new clients to consider your services, it is tempting to include the word “unlimited when it comes to intangibles like your time, email exchanges, or contact.

Instead of unlimited, describe your services as comprehensive. Describe how and when you can be contacted, and make reasonable promises like an acknowledgment of communication within 1 business day.

What you are really promoting is peace of mind, so craft your marketing messages to reassure clients that you will address their needs in the fewest number of interruptions per day possible. Let them know that you are saving them time by focusing your exchanges and limiting back-and-forth emails.

Employ collaborative software

When clients are able to engage in constructive activities to help further their planning, they are less likely to panic or invent concerns that allow give them an excuse to check in with you. There are several apps and programs that allow you to plan with clients and act as a team. Even if you end up inputting the majority of the information, your client has the ability to track what has been done and what is coming soon and feel like everything is under control.

Address abuses directly

While most clients are very understanding when you enforce your business boundaries, there are always exceptions. Do not ignore a situation and hope it gets better on its own. Have a frank conversation and determine what the motive is behind the behavior. If you find that you cannot come to a reasonable agreement, the most professional thing you can do is part ways amicably. You will avoid a dissatisfied customer and they will have the freedom to seek out a better fit.

It is entirely possible to provide top of the line customer service and still observe boundaries that allow you to have a satisfying personal and business life. Take the steps necessary now and enjoy the benefits for you and your clients long into the future.

Emily Sullivan

Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples everywhere.