Benchmark Business Group

Don't Let Service Take Over Your Time

February 21, 2023

In any service-based industry, it’s often difficult to find the right balance between service and the other areas of business activity. The Financial Services Industry is no exception. Business leaders often get so wrapped up into service work that other areas suffer.

There is no arguing that service is important. We all know and accept that service is vital to a successful agency. However, what happens when service is not balanced with the other areas of business activity? The answer is slightly different for everyone, but often those that are putting too much time and focus on service will notice:

  • Other business needs get dropped. Service takes over, and while other items might be on your to-do list, you never “find” the time to get to them.
  • Sales suffer. There’s no time to prospect. Marketing is spotty, or worse, doesn’t happen. And, not surprisingly, with all the attention on service, sales grind to a stop.
  • The focus on the agency is always today. Service tends to be very reactive. It’s difficult to plan for the future when you and your entire team are simply reacting to what’s coming in the door.
  • Often, the most experienced team members that are too focused on service are doing work that can, and should, be passed to someone with less experience.

If you’re reading this and the words “too focused on service” don't sit right with you, we understand. It’s a difficult thought for many at first, but it’s important to examine the idea that in a service-based business there can be such a thing as “too focused on service.” This doesn’t mean that service isn’t important. It doesn’t mean that you can or should cut corners with your clients. But what it does mean is that your business has 5 distinct areas of business activity that needs attention:

  • Sales – getting qualified leads to say yes to purchasing your products and services
  • Marketing – activities to create and execute strategies to attract qualified leads
  • Service – meeting or exceeding expectations through delivery of products and services
  • Operations – activities such as finance, facilities, and employee management that make it possible to execute all other areas of business activity
  • Business Strategy – strategic thought process, planning, and company policies that drive all other areas of business operations.

When the balance is off, your agency will feel it and you’ll notice that the agency isn’t operating as smoothly as you would like. But how do you change it? Here are a few insights to get you started:

  • Challenge the way you see service. Shift service from a reactive activity to a proactive activity. There is no denying good service is essential, however it also must be efficient. When your business is efficiently handling service few client needs are seen as an emergency that must be handled immediately. Reactive service thinking gives everyone in your business the green light to interrupt other important work to handle work that might easily wait. Proactive client service simply means the appropriate people in your business have dedicated blocks of time scheduled to provide service. While clients will let you know what they need, it’s you and your team that can manage client expectations about the timeframe it can be done in. Proactive service puts you and others in control of how time is spent in your business while still fulfilling your promise to clients. Two questions can help shift thinking about service from reactive to proactive service thinking. Is Now Necessary? Do I need to handle this or should someone else?
     
  • Set and communicate service expectations. Every agency should have an expectation on how long it will take to get work done. Those expectations might change during busier times or even when your team has training or vacations. But if it’s going to take three business days to make a change, or get an illustration for your client, then you need to set that expectation when they first call. If you communicate the time frame your clients will understand. It’s when communication is lacking that they get tend to get frustrated and feel as if they don’t matter.
     
  • Block Time. This is easy to suggest, but realistically sometimes hard to do. Look at your calendar and see how much time is dedicated to the other areas of business activity. Chances are most of your schedule is dedicated to service and maybe sales. Be sure to start setting time to work on the other areas. And make it a habit to not let service leak into those times. If you have a sales meeting that is canceled your business should replace that with a sales or marketing activity, because what your business is missing at that point is sales. If an operational task gets pushed back it’s good to again replace it with another operational activity. This helps ensure that no one area of your business is ignored.
     
  • Set time limits. Service will take as much time as you allow. Be sure to be in control. At the beginning of taking on a service task you should set a time limit. It’s okay and even helpful to tell a client, “I have 10 minutes right now and then I have a meeting I have to get to, if we can’t solve this within the 10 minutes, we can set a time.” This ensures that your clients feel heard and cared for, but also puts you in control of your time and how it’s spent.

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