One Saturday morning I called a store that sells hand-crafted wood furniture and left a message about an item I had seen in there recently. The store owner promptly returned my call. Sounds good, right? Not really…as we spoke, it became clear – very quickly – that he didn’t have time to talk with me because he was dealing with other customers. In fact, he pretty much said as much and I felt like an interruption rather than a customer who wanted to make a purchase. I hung up the phone quite confused and a bit annoyed, wondering why on earth he felt compelled to return my call when he clearly didn’t have time for me. I also felt bad for the customers he was working with in the store!

This exchange makes me think of conversations I’ve had with various clients and workshop attendees. One conversation comes to mind with a client who makes their revenue by billable hours. They were plagued by interruptions which was why I was called in to help. They shared with me that while working on a project for a customer, charging their billable rate, they accept phone calls from other customers, with the mindset that they are providing good customer service. Some observations with that mindset:

1) I wonder if sometimes, they are making that customer feel just like I did – more like an interruption than a customer – because their mind was already occupied by something or someone else.

2) By accepting the interruption, they are kind of declaring that the first customer whose project they were working on is less important than the one who just called.

3) That non-present customer is now going to pay MORE for the work being done because the employee has to regroup as a result of the interruption. (It takes 25 minutes to return to where you were before the interruption occurred.)

Conclusion: Don’t confuse immediate access with quality service.

Your customers aren’t just the ones buying your services/goods either. There are internal customers as well, co-workers and bosses. And to get personal for just a minute, consider your family members as internal customers too. How are you making them feel by constantly fielding interruptions via email, text, etc?

I challenge you to consider your interactions with others, professionally and personally. Certainly, there are times you need to accept that interruption. But how often could it wait? Are there times when it would be better to actually finish with whomever you’re working with or whatever you’re working on so that you can provide your best customer service to everyone involved rather than being constantly available to anyone at any time? Changing your thinking may help you be fully present when you do interact with that person, giving far better attention and service to them.

In closing, let me share this quote by Carl W. Buehner, also attributed to Maya Angelou:

“They may forget what you said,
but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

May you have blessings and balance and most of all, peace,