Whether you work in a regular office or out of your home, it is very important to take time off to refresh and recharge. Of course, when you take time off, you want to be sure your customers are in good hands while you are away. You certainly don’t want them to feel abandoned or forgotten. Customer service is a big part of effective marketing.
The following suggestions will help keep your customers connected to you and reduce your worries so you can totally unwind on your vacation.
1. Plan in advance and let them know If you plan your vacation and business trips well in advance, you can easily let your customers know when you you’ll be away. If you work on your own, make sure they know exactly what dates you leave and come back. If you have an assistant or business partner, take the time to carefully prep them in advance so they can keep everything running smoothly while you are gone. Checklists can be very helpful during this time to ensure things are run according to you.
2. Don’t be afraid to say “no” so you have time to finish things If a client asks you to do something during your time off or to take on a big project with a deadline right before you leave, simply say, “I’m sorry I’m going out of town such and such date and will return on blah-blah.” Let them know that you won’t be taking on any additional work until you return. In this way, they can work around your schedule. More importantly, you won’t be stressed because you have to burn the midnight candle to complete something before you hit the road. If you’ve shared your schedule with customers in advance, these types of requests should be minimal.
3. Set up your systems Send out a reminder e-mail the week before your vacation to remind people when you leave and when you will return. Be sure to set up an e-mail autoresponder and a voice mail message to let customers know how long you are gone and that you will respond ASAP upon your return. You can also try this trick: add on one day at the end of your vacation that you will be “gone.” You can use this day to sneak into your office to ramp back up and get everything ready to go in your office before you let anyone know you are back in town. This is a BIG stress reducer.
4. Schedule vacations during slower times If you are nervous about leaving during a busy time of year and you work in a business where you have an off season, take advantage of this by scheduling your vacations during this period. In this way, you can alleviate your stress about leaving your customers hanging. If you don’t have a slower time of year, take the vacation anyway – you’ll be better for it!
5. Set limits for yourself If you are like me, sometimes it can be hard to just let it all go. I find myself checking in with my office or checking e-mails and voice mails. Don’t do it! Trust me, everyone will be okay while you’re gone. By checking in, you are just keeping yourself from enjoying your vacation fully (and probably annoying folk back at your office). If you do need to check in, only do it once or twice during your vacation…and not once or twice a day!
If you follow the strategies above, your customers will be more than happy and able to take care of themselves while you are gone. You’ve given them ample time to work around your schedule to get their project needs met. You’ve provided backup support if possible. And they know when you will back to pick up things with their accounts. In fact, you can be a fantastic role model for your customers because many of them need to take more days off too!
While you are on your vacation, truly take the time off you need. Completely dedicate yourself to absolutely relaxing and NOT thinking about work projects. You’ll be refreshed, rejuvenated, and better equipped to be of service to your customers when you return.