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What to Do When You Catch Yourself Wasting Time

Achieving a high level of success in the web industry is a product of excellent customer service, not of one’s ability to “craft pixels.” This is a blunt statement, but the sooner you truly understand it, the better your life will be.

My name is Matt Dennis. I work in the investment services industry where finding success and maintaining high, net-worth client relationships requires an exceptional degree of customer service, integrity, and clear communication.

I attribute the lessons I’ve learned in the investment services industry to the success I have found with Dennis Web Consulting–the company I just started in late 2013. I already have more business than I can accept, a constant stream of referrals, and consistent, great customer feedback.

Putting customer service anywhere but number one on your priority list is the costliest business mistake you can make. You could stop learning web design, development, SEO, social media, or new languages today and still stomp out much of your competition just by providing superior customer service.

What is Opportunity Cost?

One of the best ways to start making this shift in perspective towards prioritizing customer service over other activities is to understand “opportunity cost.”

A little review: In microeconomic theory, the opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative forgone in a situation in which a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives given limited resources.

In simpler terms, by choosing to do something, you have chosen not to do other things that could have been done instead. The most valuable of these things you chose not to do is the opportunity cost.

My advice to you is to start considering the opportunity cost of your actions in terms of customer service. With every action, ask yourself, “is this truly improving the customer experience in a direct, impactful way or is this something that the customer will likely never benefit from?”

A few simple examples with obvious trade-offs:

  • When you pick up a new programming language you are choosing not to cold call.
  • When you’re using a label maker to put pretty, printed labels on the files for your file cabinet, you’re not on the phone calling on the prospect you talked to three days ago.
  • When you’re up late at night reading “just one more” article, you are not getting the valuable sleep you need so that you have the energy to truly engage with clients the next morning.

In all of these examples, an action was chosen that did not make servicing prospects or customers a priority. Start making customers and prospects the priority in every action. You will find that the rest will largely take care of itself.

Using Opportunity Cost to Your Advantage

So how can you put this concept of “opportunity cost” into effect?

One way is through “constant awareness.”

You have several decades to live here on Earth. You get 24 hours in each day. Your time is limited. If you are a serious business owner and want more, great customers, you are going to have to maximize actions that directly and positively affect your acquisition of more, great customers.

Constant awareness of opportunity cost is an effective way of maximizing your effectiveness. Don’t think about why you “should” be doing something. Instead, think about why you “shouldn’t” be doing something, which will lead you to what you should be doing – focusing on customers.

We humans are not very good at stepping back and seeing the big picture of how we are spending our time. So another way of putting the opportunity cost concept into effect is by scheduling daily tasks and periodically reviewing how closely you met your schedule.

Unless you are scheduling all of your tasks and then reviewing how well you stuck to your schedule, it would be hard to say “I spend my time on 50% selling, 25% designing, 25% business activities.”

By scheduling, you are holding yourself accountable and can really see how much or little you pay attention to opportunity cost. You might find that although you think you spend 75% of the time on customer-related activities, you are regularly getting distracted and spending far more time on things that don’t directly impact the customer.

You should also write, not think about, but write down your short-term goals and put them somewhere you can monitor. When you start reading that new Python book, re-designing your own website again, or accepting work from a less-than-desirable client, look at your short-term goal list and ask yourself “is this getting me closer to my goals or is there an opportunity cost in this activity that I should be focused on?”

The net benefit is achieving your long-term goals and making your dreams come true. Besides not ever starting in the first place, one of the main reasons people don’t succeed in achieving a long-term goal is because they don’t pay attention to the opportunity cost of their actions. This makes the time to achieve goals feel much longer, which makes the goal seem more impossible (especially because they don’t schedule and track), and then the person fails and never knows why.

Take action. Stop dancing around the one thing you know you should be doing and just do it. Start with a mind of “awareness.” I bet once you start paying attention to the opportunity costs of your actions, your focus will change dramatically, and your progress will speed up beyond what you thought was possible.

I would normally add links to the end of an article like this, but right now, pick up the phone and call a customer or a prospect. That’s what you should be doing.

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