Facebook Message: "Help! Remove this contact from all my stuff & lists right NOW! They didn't make their payment today!"
Text Message: "Hey, can you send me a link to do a quick sale today for _____ product? I already posted about it on Facebook so I need it like...yesterday."
Email Reply @ 4:15pm: "Yes, yes. I know. I'm working on tomorrow's module email and workbook and videos right now and I'll get it to you in just a few....." (then 10:15pm rolls around)
Each of the above scenarios are unfortunately common and daily occurrences for many online support providers of all types. Unplanned, last minute and urgent requests arrive on various platforms at all hours of the day and night. Usually with a hint of desperation or panic between the lines. Some requests are valid and warranted, such as mid-launch glitches and unannounced platform downtimes. These type of "things gone awry" are typically planned for by both the client and support professional.
However, what about those requests that come in outside of business hours and with an unrealistic turn around time expectation outside of your normal business practices? Let's take a closer look at "Rush Fees vs Charging by Work style".
Rush Job: Any task that comes in outside of business hours with a completion expectation less then your set turn around time.
Rush Fee: A negotiated fee for tasks requested by the client to be completed outside of business hours or in less then the set company turn around time.
Two Basic Boundaries
As a support professional, your business mission is to provide first class client support and customer service. With a business model focused on being of service to others, it can be easy to become vulnerable to "people pleasing" and avoid two basic rules of engagement that are meant to protect you and your clients.
1) Set Business Hours: Identify your daily business hours and stick to them. Post them on your website, in your contract and your welcome packet (if you provide one). This should include if you work weekends or not.
2) Turn Around Time: Determine a realistic turn around time for the type of services you provide and state that clearly in your discovery call, contract and welcome packet. Turn around times will vary between Virtual Assistants, Online Business Managers, Graphic Designers, Website Designers, etc. You may even have different types of turn around times (Client Emails minimum 24 hours, Project & Tasks minimum 48 hours, etc).
Rush Fee or Custom Pricing
Now that we've covered the two basic boundaries that support professionals should have in place, how does the support professional deal with the inevitable requests that will come in outside of these boundaries.
Should they charge a rush fee or simply charge a higher retainer rate based on the client's working style?
"How would I know a client's work style" you ask? Well, there are certain questions you can ask on a discovery call to learn more about a client's work style, including:
"What time of the day do you get the most done?"
"When an idea comes to you, what do you do next?"
"When you go on a vacation, do you like to plan all the details ahead of time or just let things happen as they come?"
If a client is a procrastinator (or works best under pressure), likes to jump on an idea when it's HOT...like RIGHT NOW RIGHT RIGHT NOW, or works best in the wee hours of the night and weekends...these may all be tell-tell signs that they may tend to request tasks outside of business hours and with unrealistic turn around expectations. In that case, if you provide services based on retainer or scope of work, it may make more sense to increase your monthly pricing to accommodate the additional last minute tasks and emergency shifting of work and schedules that you may inevitably encounter.
As a client, you may be thinking..."wait a minute, that doesn't seem fair." Well, consider this scenario for a moment:
"When you shop online and you want your purchase delivered to you overnight or 2 day, you pay a higher shipping fee correct? If you're ok with regular shipping, it's often provided to you free of charge."
The same applies to support professionals. They often have more than 1 client at a time and schedule their contracted workloads days (or even weeks) in advance in order to ensure that client work is completed on time and correctly. If they are constantly stopping and shifting gears for last minute requests, it has the potential to affect everyone negatively....including YOU at some point.
Rush Fee's are definitely a way to deter client's from requesting rush jobs, but they can also have a negative impact on a client's overall experience. Therefore, one recommendation is to provide language in your contract regarding your business hours, turn around times and rush fees. However, use your discovery call to learn as much about a client as possible.
Remember, you, as the support professional, are interviewing the potential client, just as much as the potential client is interviewing you! This is your chance to decide if a client is a good fit with your company culture, your specific services and YOUR workstyle.
Can you relate to this post as a support professional or online service based entrepreneur? Share below the creative ways you have of developed for handling rush jobs.