One recent morning I woke up and it hit me. I barely have time to do the things I love. I have not been exercising like I use to. I have not talked to friends on the phone. I barely spend time with my husband. My kids ask why I always am on the computer – they say “why can’t you just do that while we are at school?” – and I answer my twins and say “I am on the computer working when you are at school too.”
I run a business. And with business comes responsibility. I have a responsibility to provide excellent customer service to my fans, followers, and customers. I have had Multiple Choices Photography DBA “MCP Actions” since 2006 (training photographers and selling photoshop actions). Prior to that I did Product Photography and photo editing. In the past two year my marketing, social networking, and branding has paid off. My business is doing really well, even in the poor economy. I have 2,000-4,000+ visitors to my blog daily, I have over 4,200 facebook friends, 4,500 facebook fans and 3,000 something twitter followers. This sounds great – right? It is. I love what I have built and I am proud of my accomplishments. BUT…
There is always a “BUT.” And this but is a big one… I love what I do. And I am very happy that I can “make a living at it.” I work very hard. So the “but” is that something needs to change. I need to make time for myself and for my family. I need to have more time away from the computer (even if just a little bit – it would make a difference). I need to take care of my health by exercising more, finding a new doctor (for my PCOS, Thyroid and Asthma issues – yes a triple whammy), and just take time to breath and enjoy life. I do love my work. I am passionate about it, but I love other stuff too. And lately work consumes me.
And the biggest part of that – EMAIL. Email literally overtakes my every day. I know many of you are nodding your heads saying “me too.” I wake up in the morning to usually a few hundred emails, some junk and spam, others customer questions, and yet others just fans who want to know everything from what camera do I use to how can they get better color or focus, etc… I get emails from those wanting MCP to sponsor a workshop or donate prizes, do a guest blog, host a contest, etc… Most emails start like this “I know you are really busy, but I just have this one question…”
You get the idea. I love helping people and I love answering questions. I hate saying “no.” So next thing I know, it is 10am, 11am, noon, or sometimes even 1pm before I whittle away at the email and answer questions and get back to everyone. I may pause in between for an hour to do a one on one private workshop or group workshop, and then back to emails again. Finally when I clear out my box, and grab a quick bite to eat, often at 1 or even 2pm, the emails already pile up again. My kids get home at 4pm and I try hard to focus on them – taking them to activities, helping them with homework, and spending time with them. By the time bed time hits, the rest of the night is often spent checking email and responding again.
Are you getting tired just reading this? I am. So as the title of this post says, “Something needs to change…”
Here are some of my thoughts and a few ideas from some amazing Facebook friends. I need to decide which to implement and which not to.
- Do monthly FAQ posts – take a list of questions I get asked (pick a handful or more) and answer them in a blog post. Really liking this idea. But still not sure if people will feel upset getting an email from me saying check my monthly FAQ post as I will try to answer questions there. Is this acceptable customer service?
- Refer people to my facebook fan page. I am doing this some already. I hope someday this will be a place where my fans and readers can come together and help each other.
- Auto Responders… I am not a fan. I do have lots of template emails set up for frequently asked questions. But I am talking about the emails that say “we are busy and will get back to you in 48 hours…” I do not like these. I don’t mean to offend anyone but to me these are impersonal. And waiting 48 hours just delays the emails and lets them accumulate more.
- Charge a consulting fee for answering email questions – this was suggested by someone on Facebook. I do not want to do this just to answer questions. But I do offer one on one training, so if someone has a lot of questions I do point them to that.
- Have a list of recommended sites, books, and references that they can read. This is a good idea except that the questions in these emails are such a huge range.
- Hire an assistant – not sure if I am “ready” for this. I always said if my business got to that point it got too big. But at the same time, maybe finding people to do certain things could help. Just not sure.
- NEW WEBSITE – yep – I just hired another person to redo my web site. The last company had good intentions, but it never got completed. Cross your fingers for me on this one. Instant Downloads will help a ton. This would mean less emails saying “I lost my actions, can you resend” or “I never got the actions you sent” (due to spam filters, etc). Plus customers will love to get things right away and be able to revisit to re-download if needed.
- NEW BLOG – same as “new website” – new blog designer has been hired. Waiting on new site to get underway. But my goal is to make things so intuitive and easy to use that you can locate old posts easily, and see related posts, etc. This would mean less emails saying “I cannot find this video or post I remember…” or “how do I…” I will be able to say “search.” You can search now – but it is not obvious and the blog as a whole is not mapped out well for its content.
- Start a forum – running a forum likely would take more time than email. The advantage is that people can answer each others questions, but the disadvantage is everything else. This is why Facebook may be the way to go if I can get people use to going there and checking there. It is ready made, easy, and already set up.
- Referral to forums – I do list some on my blog. But maybe I should do this in emails too. Got a question, try these forums… Hmm – liking this idea.
I would love your help with some more ideas of how I can get my life back and at the same time retain a high level of customer service. Hopefully this post and the comments will help others who feel their life is no longer their own too. Thanks for your ideas!