young desperate university student girl in stress for exam studyI’m sure everyone has been in this position. You’re flipping through your work email on your phone late at night when something catches your eye. Maybe it’s a question with a simple answer. Or maybe it’s something that seems more urgent. But it’s after hours. Your office is officially closed. Do you respond?

This is something I’ve hemmed and hawed about at Cranky Concierge for a long time. To avoid having the company completely take over my life (and the lives of my employees), I decided to set boundaries by establishing office hours during which we do business by email and phone. We’re open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific time Monday through Friday. For people traveling outside those hours, our concierges are monitoring and available. But people who just need bookings or have general questions will have to wait until we open again — or they can pay for urgent assistance at any time.

After some initial issues with notifying people about our office hours, we settled into a good rhythm. Now our voice mail greetings are clear, and our email system kicks back a response when we’re outside of hours. If customers need urgent assistance, they can follow the instructions to reach us. It just costs 0 for the urgent service.

Of course, it’s silly to think that my employees and I are going to stop checking email as soon as the doors close. Like most people, I have way too deep of a relationship with my smartphone. Even if I’m just sitting there mindlessly browsing Reddit, not working, I’m going to see when new emails come in. Sometimes, I see an email come in that has a simple response. Part of me wants to just fire back and answer. But I stop myself. Do I really want to set that precedent?

Even more agitating is when something comes in that seems semi-urgent. Do I respond? Or do I wait to see if the customer follows the instructions to contact us if it is indeed urgent?

My natural first reaction is to respond, but I generally resist the urge. If it’s critical, we’ve made it very clear how to reach us. If customers don’t follow through with contacting the urgent line, they can probably wait until we reopen in the morning or on Monday, right? But it still nags at me. More than anything, I probably need to put my phone down and not be tempted by all these things. But if I see something come in after hours that I think should be tackled, then it’s always an internal tug of war on my part.

I want to make sure we provide the best service we can, but that probably doesn’t mean responding anytime, day or night.

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