I think the number-one thing people remember about other people is when they have been given more of their time than expected. We all know doctors who make us sit in the waiting room for far too long, but we keep going back because once we are in the examining room, she gives us enough time to feel like we are being cared for. We don’t mind waiting because we trust she will give us the time back, and then some. The same holds true for anyone who works on retainer. When I spend a few more minutes on the phone with a client, I hope my clients see that I am invested as much in them as they are in me. I care, and if there are a few minutes unlogged, so what?
A manager who will stop what he’s doing and listen to an employee will be remembered for “taking time out.” No matter how few perks you think you can offer from a business standpoint, remember that you possess the best commodity out there: your time. By being generous with it when you think it matters most, it will pay off. This is not to say you shouldn’t be discerning about who gets your time. We have all been trapped by those moments of unrelenting small talk that dwindles our daily rates.
An attorney friend who had to keep rescheduling an important hearing billed back some time to his client, who was in limbo without the charge being cleared. Although his frustrated client was ready to bash him all over town, he mitigated the situation by letting her know that her time and her unease had been noticed and meant something to him. Now, she refers him constantly. When we offer our time, we are offering so much more: patience, listening, problem-solving, and, as in the case with the attorney, compassion and empathy for a client’s fear and frustration.
Time is a motivator for employees as well. If employees don’t feel they are given enough of your time, they will feel resentful. Your reputation depends on your employees because they are the most powerful source of word-of-mouth PR you can ever find, especially in today’s social media culture. No matter how many bad days or good days you give to your employees (and, hey, nobody’s perfect), when you are generous with your time, stopping what you are doing to hear someone out, regardless of whether it is founded, you will be remembered as an upstanding employer. “He didn’t always say or do the right thing, but he was always there for me,” one employee might say.
Time can also be a great commodity by using some spare minutes to mentor someone, whether it is an employee or someone in the community. Programs in local schools, at libraries, and nursing homes are in need of mentors. Some programs are advertised and will incorporate your business logo or name into their marketing materials, while others will be able to have that ever-powerful word-of-mouth effect. For instance, a dry cleaner who reads to the elderly might gain a few more customers just because of the new personal connection. People talk to other people about business owners all day long. You will be astounded by how many new patrons you might gain by offering an hour of your time per week.
Similarly, a dentist working with seniors in high school who are interested in dentistry gains 30 new clients, because the students and their families decided to make the switch. The point is, in a time-crunched world we all experience shortage of time. So when you are willing to give up some of yours, it makes an indelible impression on people.
Joan makes it a point of calling back prospects and spending time with them on the phone, offering advice about publishing, and most of the time, referring them to another service more appropriate for their needs. What results are emails from these prospects offering testimonials about how generous Joan was with her time. Two lucrative clients were referred to Joan by one of these grateful callers. Joan’s time was not in the least wasted.
Rick Warren wrote, “When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.” When given freely, your time is a powerful and generous currency. Imagine your customers, peers, and vendors who feel as if you are approachable and available. Not everyone is looking for their money back or a sly discount. If you make customers feel as if they matter to you by allowing them the time to hear what they need, you won’t need to be handing cash back to people.