Tagtime management

Beyond the Reboot #6: Time Management

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.

Freedom is killing you

Julien Smith’s post Give in to the machine gets to the heart of a problem I’ve always had when I had too much free, unstructured time.

Freedom is killing you. This is the problem most of us with day jobs have too. We’re so used to being told what to do during the day that we never let our own internal machine develop.

Think about it: Would you even have graduated high school if you weren’t forced to be there?

Would I have followed through and finished high school? My gut reaction is to declare, but of course! It’s what you do to get a job and move up in life. But honestly, I’m not sure if that’s really the case for me. I don’t know if I would have stuck with it if I didn’t have to. I had other desires and ambitions.

I wanted to write and I was fascinated with print design and the fledgling web design industry. I had a lot of interests that didn’t seem to coincide with what school was trying to cram into my head.

After I graduated high school and went on to and college my free time grew immensely. With that new-found free time I didn’t apply it to my studies. I didn’t apply it to any great craft. I didn’t apply it to much of anything. I slept some. I drank gallons of Mountain Dew in a vain attempt to feed my creativity and to learn as much as I could about the world and specifically web design as I thought I could.

I took classes, I did ok in them but I never excelled like I had in high school. All my life I had been told to work to my potential and push myself because I was smarter than that. Then, when I was in college, all that exterior prodding goes away. Sure, I didn’t fail out of school and I knew enough to keep my grades up fairly well but the fire was gone.

The motivation was gone. I had worked and worked hard to get into college which was supposed to be a challenged and I wasn’t challenged. I drifted through and for the first few years of my life out of school I didn’t have a fire underneath me.

I worked hard at whatever job I happened to be doing but the fire and drive wasn’t there. I hadn’t realized it had been so long since I had to motivate myself, I had forgotten how to be self-motivated.

I don’t mean that in the “are you a self-starter” job interview question kind of way. I always worked hard at my jobs. Often times too hard for what I was getting in return in either money or respect. But I continued to work hard because that’s what I knew would eventually lead to better opportunities.

A couple of times since graduating college I’ve tried to in a freelance capacity. I’ve tried to work as a web and print designer and that dream ended with a parade of poor choices.1 I’ve tried to work in tech support as a remote worker and there wasn’t enough structure for me. I entertain the idea of becoming a freelance writer, technical or otherwise. But every time when I really think about it and get down to it, I prefer to work in a structured environment.

I like the security of money and time off. I like the security of having a consistent income and having the freedom, albeit comparatively limited, to do what I want to do with my life when I am not at work.

There is a trade-off with freedom. Sometimes too much can be just as bad as too little. When there is too much freedom, I lack the discipline to make it work in my favor because it was always a should and not a must.


  1. Hindsight is always 20/20. 

%d bloggers like this: