Correspondence- The finger to the dam.
Client communication is a huge part of our daily lives. Even though we’re partial to e-mail correspondence vs phone or face-to-face (most of the time) we understand the latter has to happen once and a while. When it does, we’re reminded how nice it is to hear our clients’ happy voices and see their smiling faces! Our preferred form of communication is electronic though, because it’s a clear, linear trail to follow and it matches how we track our workflow.
It’s easy to get caught up doing your work during the day, so when the phone rings it can bounce you out of your rhythm. Whether it’s a long conversation or a short one, you want to make sure you get the most out of it and remain productive. It might sound silly, but we think there is a subtle art-form to managing phone calls and other forms of correspondence effectively.
Develop your own shorthand for note-taking.
It doesn’t have to be actual shorthand, but you need to be able to decipher what you’ve written once you’re off the phone. You’ll only be wasting more time if you have to call back and clarify. If there’s a word that’s used repeatedly throughout your day, develop a symbol, or abbreviation for it. Although this link talks about study methods, we think it could also be useful for general shorthand during note-taking.
Be specific with your conversation.
Right up there along with being able to read your own shorthand is being specific with your client- and urging them to be specific with you. If you’re on the phone, ask them to show you online which page they’d like revisions on… Write down what you need to, but make sure you know exactly what they’re talking about.
Ask clients to wait.
Ask them to wait for you to catch up on your notes before moving on to another topic, or continuing. Something like “Do you mind hanging on just a second, I’d like to finish my notes real quick before we go any further…” They’ll appreciate that you’re taking the time to write down details and not assuming you’ll remember them all later. Relying solely on your frontal lobe only increases the chances for errors.
Utilize your short-term memory- then put it all together ASAP.
Being able to listen, take notes, comprehend and respond is a lot to do at once. Re-play your conversation after you’ve hung up or parted ways. Was there anything you missed in your notes? Go through and fill out your notes- then get them digital as fast as you can. The chances of you being able to decipher your shorthand Monday morning are slim to none (no matter how savvy you are at scribbling).
Utilize Post-it notes!
They don’t move around on your desk, so you can actually hold the phone and write at the same time. Might seem overly simple, but it’s a real stress-saver.
Manage your calls.
If you’re smack-dab in the middle of something when the phone rings, ask if you can call back in a few minutes. At that point you’ll be more prepared to talk about the subject, and be able to give the client your undivided attention. Worth it. You could also do it this way: “I’m away from my desk at the moment- would you mind sending that to me in an e-mail?” The simple act of typing out the question or request makes that person really think through what they are asking.
On the phone all the time?
If you find yourself on the phone more often than at your desk working, there’s something you can do. In The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss suggests that to become more efficient and effective, this voicemail would be helpful:
“You’ve reached the desk of Tim Ferriss.I am currently checking and responding to voicemail twice daily at 12:00 P.M. ET [or your time zone] and 4:00 P.M. ET. If you require assistance with a truly urgent matter that cannot wait until either 12:00 P.M. or 4:00 P.M., please contact me on my cell at 555-555-5555. Otherwise, please leave a message and I will return it at the next of those two times. Be sure to leave your e-mail address, as I am often able to respond faster that way. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better. Have a wonderful day.”
Find out more about this here: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/.
Batch correspondence together.
Requests from clients often come in one or two line e-mails, phone calls, or maybe even a fax here and there… and most often are scattered throughout the day. Instead of responding to them individually as they come in, batch them together and roll them into one response. You’ll save time this way, and you might even be able to carve out a little to do some work.