How to Set Boundaries with Customers and Clients

It’s important to have a good relationship with your customers and clients. You want to be friendly and personal and make them feel like you truly care about their success. But in order to have a healthy relationship, you need to put certain boundaries in place. Consistent boundaries are essential for building a trusting partnership.

Hours of Operation

Decide when you’ll be available to your customers. Modern technology allows us to be at our customers’ beck and call around the clock. But there’s a reason why companies establish set hours of business. Choose your “hours of operation” and make them known. When choosing these times, keep in mind the needs of your clients and customers. You may want to choose later or earlier hours to accommodate.

Means of Communication

Decide how you will communicate with customers. Email and social media are both appropriate for business communications. You might want to be careful about texting or chatting apps. These can sometimes feel too personal and invasive. Ask yourself whether you want clients contacting you there. If you don’t habitually use these for business, there’s also the risk that messages might get lost.

Make Allowances for Urgent Issues

There may be some cases where you can bend the boundaries you’ve set. For example, you might tell clients they can reach you for urgent issues over the phone. You may check your business emails once on each weekend day. In order for this to work effectively, establish guidelines about what’s urgent and what isn’t.

Define Your Services

Although you’d like to be there for anything your customers and clients need, you should define exactly what services you can and can’t offer. If they want you to do something outside your defined services, decide whether you’ll do it for an additional charge.

Keep Your Distance

Some people don’t understand or respect boundaries, and there’s a good chance some of your customers will fall into this group. Identify these people early on and put strategies in place for dealing with them. Above all, be clear and honest with them about what is possible. Some strategies include:

  • Divert conversations away from too-personal topics
  • Make it clear exactly how long you can spend with them (“I’m sorry, I have to go now. I have a meeting in a few minutes”)
  • Acknowledge that you’ve heard what they said; don’t ignore it (“I can hear it’s very frustrating for you.”)
  • Propose something positive where possible  (“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to help with this but what I can do is…..”)

Learn How to Say “No”

We instinctively don’t like to say “no.” We all want to be helpful and don’t want to offend someone by rejecting their request. But it’s sometimes necessary to firmly decline, and you should have techniques in place for doing that. You can:

  • Suggest someone else who can help when you’re busy
  • Arrange another time when you can do what the person is requesting
  • Say “no” clearly and explain why

Building Trust

Remember that it’s not an issue of being “nice” or not. Boundaries are the foundations of healthy relationships, so you’re defining the terms of your relationship. This helps to build trust and mutual respect.

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