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Productivity / Business Productivity

“URGENT!” how to hose down fire drill syndrome

Do you have days where every client seems to want everything ‘yesterday’? Here are some great ways to manage clients that always want immediate delivery.

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My father used to say: When everything is urgent, nothing really is. He may have stolen this saying from someone else but it still resonates.

With some clients, everything they request is “urgent”. It’s known as the ‘fire drill syndrome’. These types assume 24/7 availability, their expectations are sky high, everything is urgent and requires an immediate response, plus they want delivery yesterday.

Luckily there are techniques for handling these tricky types of customers.

1. Don’t assume ‘urgent’ means immediately

You may find some clients are happy with a timeline that you believe would not consider ‘urgent’. Find out what their timeline is, if they have an actual deadline and why it is so important. It may be that there is a submission deadline for a proposal, article, permit etc. Or it may be that they are ‘hoping’ to have it completed.

"With some clients, everything they request is “urgent”. It’s known as the ‘fire drill syndrome’."

2. Is the work you are doing holding up other work?

Try to find out if the work or service you are providing is holding up another phase of their project or is preventing them from doing something with their business. Try to understand what the actual timeline is and see if it is possible to try to work with the other provider and match their timeline. Often it helps to understand exactly what is required from the work or service you are providing that may be a ‘make or break’ for your client.

3. Can you break the work into phases?

Try breaking the work up and asking if you can provide a portion/piece/phase first to ensure ‘you are clear on deliverables’. Clients may well appreciate this clarity. It may also offer them a more palatable method for payment by phase rather than payment all at once.

4. Charge a Premium for Urgent Work

Consider charging extra for last minute, urgent work. Smile sweetly and explain that you are busy, what the normal timing for delivery is and you don’t want to push other client work aside for one (disorganized late) client. You are however happy to consider work overtime or weekends for an additional fee. You may be surprised how ‘un-urgent’ the work becomes!

5. Be prepared to say No

Good client service is managing expectations so if you cannot manage it or it means quality will suffer, remember your reputation (and health!) is on the line.

And then sit back and feel confident that you have managed your day, your client service and your business in the best way possible.

Rem Koohaas made the beautiful observation that ‘We live in an almost perfect stillness and work with incredible urgency.”

Do you have a great client response you have used that we haven’t thought of? Please share what worked for you!

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.

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