How do you handle impatient customers (both internal and external customers)?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from over 250,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How do you handle impatient customers (both internal and external customers)?

  • I bump them up on my priority list since they're asking for a response: 45%
  • I keep them in their spot on my priority list and let them know other issues are ahead of them in line: 39%
  • I immediately respond to their needs and drop everything else: 12%
  • I respond slowly to get them to slow down and be more patient: 3%

Their emergency isn’t your emergency. I hear many people have challenges with time management. 57% of you are making your own lives more difficult. One of the biggest issues they face is unexpected interruptions. When someone calls or drops by with something important to them, it’s tempting to put them at the top of your priority list. That can cause several issues. First, you condition them to bother you if they want action. Second, it delays others waiting patiently ahead of them. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone “I’m working on a few things ahead of your request and will get to it as soon as I’m able.” Most reasonable people understand and accept that and doing so gives you back control over your priorities and your work. Give it a try -- you might be surprised by how easy and effective that approach is.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."