Customer service is all about time management. There is a never-ending line of people who need help and only so many hours in the workday. Managing your time effectively has a lot to do with the amount of power you have to delight your customers and the team around you.

It’s easy to try to race through everything to get it done. But it’s often like treading water while fighting a hydra. You fix one problem and two more pop up. Take the time to plan your attack first and then try to work through the problems to help your customers.

Try to schedule appointments with them. Try to finish the more important things or easy things first to clear the way for the harder, more time-consuming tasks. There are nearly limitless ways to deal with a stack of problems ahead of you. Find a way that works for you and your customer.

Sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day and not everything will get done. There are days when you have to stop and pick up where you left off the next day. There are far more customers and problems than people to fix them and there’s only so much you can do in a single day. Your customer doesn’t care that you have 30 other problems to fix. They only care, and know, about their own. That’s when your skills at communicating and empathizing come in to play.

Time management is important before the job even begins. For every IT support job I’ve ever had I’ve gotten a question that goes along the lines of, “You have a customer at your desk, the phone rings, a critical ticket comes in and you have an email demanding your immediate attention. What do you do?”

My answer is always, “It depends.”

Then I walk the interviewer through my thought process. Is one of the customer’s a VIP? Does the President, CEO, or VP of something need something from you? You go see them first. Take care of them because they’re the highest in the food chain. Then handle the issues based on severity and speed.

Is a computer not booting? That person takes priority after the CEO. But if the person at your desk or on the phone has a question that can be answered or resolved is under a minute, handle it.

These are not hard and fast rules. These are guidelines. There is no hard and fast rule in Customer Service. You do the best you can and apologize to those who have to wait.

Recently, I had a meeting setup for the Director of the organization where I work. He needed his conference room prepared for a meeting. At the same time, I had to staff a new employee orientation. On top of it, my team was short-staffed. In fact, I was the only person working out of our team of three.

Thankfully, my manager was able to provide coverage for the orientation while I helped get the Director’s meeting setup. I wonder if the new employees had any idea they were being treated to an orientation by someone higher than their own local IT guy.

I struggle to find another specific example since they’re nearly a daily occurrence. As I mentioned before, use your best judgment. You know your customers better than anyone. You’ll know who can wait and who cannot.