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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Customers Wasting Your Time?

Dear Sue: How can I get a good customer to understand that his 30 to 45 minute phone calls are taking too much of our time? He buys a lot from us and is an important customer, but his phone yammering on and on is getting ridiculous. Do you have any suggestions?

 Ė Wasting time

Sue Says: Donít be so sure that you are wasting your time on the phone with this customer. I donít know what service you provide, but if you are like any other business, you wouldnít be in business without your customers. Customers can be choosy, and tend to take their business to the companies they trust and like. There is a reason this customer is a good customer of yours; perhaps the long phone conversations have been a contributing factor to his perception of your service and concern for him and his business.

When he talks to you, what is he talking about? Is it related to the product or service you provide or is he talking about things that are unrelated to business? Before you tell him to stop yammering, listen carefully to what he says. The conversations that you perceive to be time wasters could provide you with valuable information; the more you learn about this customer, the better able you will be to serve him and grow your business with him. Having a strong rapport with any customer is essential to a long-lasting relationship, and ultimately may be one of the main reasons this person will continue to buy from you. Although it may sound as though I am suggesting you let him talk as much as he wants, this does not mean that you should neglect your other customers or work you have to do. You do need to have and set boundaries, and make sure you are not taken advantage of in any way. You can guide the conversations in the direction you want, and will need to have a few creative ways to end the conversations without appearing rude or disinterested. You can limit the number of times you let the conversation drag on by telling him that youíd love to keep talking but have work that needs to be done. Be assertive, but be sensitive and polite and always let him know how much you appreciate his business and enjoy dealing with him. Never forget that this person is a great customer; so if you make changes, keep doing some of what youíve been doing, because it appears to be working.

Dear Sue: How do I thank my boss for a raise that I think is fair, but not great? I don't want her to think I would be happy with this amount of a raise every year, but I assume I should show some gratitude.

- Jacki

Sue Says: Thank her for the raise and let her know how much you value your pay increases. Be sure she knows that you are motivated to work hard and do what it takes to continue to increase your earning potential. You may want to find a time to sit down with her, share your aspirations and ask her what you need to do to receive an even bigger raise next time. If you fail to inform her of your ambitions, she will assume you are fine with things the way they are. It is important for you to know how far you can go with this company and important for you boss to know what you are working toward.

Dear Sue: I write thank you notes each month to people who regularly support an outreach program with finances. How can I change the wording month after month so that it does not sound trite or repetitive, but truly appreciative of the financial support?

 - Margaret

Sue Says: There arenít too many different ways to say thank you, but you may be able to change each note by including current updates of how the money is being used or information about what the outreach program is accomplishing. The people who support the program should be interested knowing how things are going and how their support is making a difference.

However, you donít have to worry too much about your creativity; while it is important for people to receive a note of thanks, most people donít scrutinize the notes they receive and appreciate the acknowledgement. It is fine to keep your notes simple with a traditional thank you, but once in awhile you may want to mention that although a simple thank you may seem redundant, you want to make sure he/she knows it is heartfelt and that you really do appreciate the continued support.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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