In the Trenches: Building a Business With Less of Me

There’s no doubt that my name is synonymous with the Cranky Flier and Cranky Concierge. In fact, I’m so closely tied to the Cranky brand, which I built from scratch, that it’s not uncommon for people to simply refer to me as “Cranky” instead of Brett. That’s a good thing, because it affirms that the brand is solid. But it’s also a bad thing, because I’m not flying solo anymore: I have employees. It’s hard to get people to understand that.

I’m not looking to quit or retire — although I wouldn’t frown on sipping fruity drinks in a tropical location for a while. But the business has grown so much that I can’t handle everything myself. Other people work for me and do a fantastic job. Clients can now complete an entire trip with Cranky Concierge and have absolutely no interaction with me.

However, a lot of customers still think that when they email Cranky Concierge, they’re emailing me directly. (And sometimes they do email me directly instead of going through the usual business channels.) But as the company grows, I can’t respond as quickly as I’d like to, which inevitably means some people will be unhappy. So, I need to effectively communicate that Cranky Concierge consists of more than just me.

We’ve already worked hard to adjust the scripts on our interactive voice response system and voice mail messages. That has helped to some extent. I also include gentle reminders in my responses whenever clients email me directly, reminding them to send emails to the general inbox so they’ll get faster service. But for some people, it seems that there’s no way to make the message clear. Old habits die hard, right?

What concerns me most is that clients may email me and simply not get a response for some time.  In this business, a 24 hour delay can be problematic, so the window is much shorter for good customer service. I want responses to go out within a few hours at most.  I do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, but it still stresses me out that someone will fall through the cracks. Short of putting a permanent out-of-office reply on my email account or setting up permanent forwarding (both of which are likely to aggravate the situation more than alleviate it), I’ve run out of ideas.

This is generally only a problem for longtime clients or prospects who come to Cranky Concierge through the Cranky Flier blog. But they represent a substantial portion of our customer base. It’s a tough problem to solve. Any thoughts?

About Brett Snyder

Brett is the Founder and President of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. He also writes the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.
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2 comments
nbarnard
nbarnard

I have similar thoughts to Alan. You might consider putting some filters on your email which flag potential emails that were misdirected and fire off an autoreply. This wouldn't fix the problem but it'd at least provide a prompt response so customers could redirect their inquiry.

 

Alternately: Change your email address. Only give out the new email address in appropriate places. This'd take a bit of time to transition, but once your new email address is getting almost all of the email that belongs there, forward the old email address to the general company box.

Alan Green
Alan Green

Two thoughts occur to me:

 

1.  Having a virtual, personal assistant do a quick pass over your email twice a day, forwarding obvious business email to your business would be a big help. It would probably cost you less than $200/month. Search for "virtual personal assistant" on Google.

 

2. Since you have identified the sources of the problem you might be able to solve it with technology. For long time customers, set up email forwarding so that email from them is forwarded straight to your business. On your blog use a different email address, one that goes to your business email server.

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  1. [...] In the Trenches: Building a Business With Less of Me – Intuit Small Business Blog Most people associate me with the Cranky brand, but I’m not the only one doing the work, especially on the concierge side. Concierge clients often won’t deal with me at all, and it’s been tough to get people to understand that. 787 none [...]

  2. [...] I couldn’t handle the growing workload myself — and didn’t want to. I’d planned to have less of me and more of others involved in day-to-day operations, even if that meant cutting into [...]