Great communication is a hallmark quality of every highly successful organization. Technological advancements over the last 20-plus years have made it easier than ever to find ways to communicate, but in some ways, the sheer volume and variety of communication vehicles that exist today can be both a blessing and a curse. How can a business that is focused on providing excellent customer service continue to thrive in an “always on” environment? How can external clients or internal associates be certain that their message has been received and that the information or request is funneling its way through the proper channels?
Enter the “Rule of 45”
The Rule of 45 is designed to make life less stressful for everybody who adopts it, as well as everybody with whom they interact. Within 45 minutes, the sender should expect that the receiver will deliver what’s been asked for—unless a conversation is initiated to indicate otherwise. That’s the key. Maybe the end result will take a day, a week or a month to achieve, but by opening the dialogue within 45 minutes, acknowledging the request and taking the first step to address it, the necessary parties will be able to have a conversation that can lead to a mutually agreeable final outcome. If both the sender and the recipient understand and adhere to this expectation, there will never be any confusion or question as to whether the message was received and where it stands.
A company that embraces the Rule of 45, commits to it and lives by it, will see improved productivity and communication across the organization. The Rule of 45 should act as a guideline for anyone who ever asks for anything, and this rule can be applied not only at work but also in one’s personal life as well.
Imagine this business scenario: A human resources team contacts their marketing team and asks them to develop a new brochure for recruiting purposes. The marketing team may say they’ll need 10 days to plan the campaign, but the human resources team might say that they really need it in five days. At that point, both teams will know that they’re going to have to figure out some sort of compromise. For example, if the marketing team doesn’t have the existing resources available to fully flesh out the new brochure, they may have to utilize outside resources to help deliver it. Regardless of where that conversation leads, by addressing the initial request within 45 minutes, neither team would be left to wonder about the status or urgency of the project. The quick initial response is simply a matter of common courtesy that promotes efficiency and trust.
When a client asks for something, they assume that the necessary parties will jump right on it, and the client will then go about their daily business. Depending upon the nature of the request, they may not even think about it themselves again until several days later. But at some point, they will get upset if they haven’t received any communication or status update of what they’ve asked for.
Whether it’s a voicemail, an email or a text message, clients, customers and fellow employees deserve a response. For those not in the office, set up an out-of-office or alternate automatic reply – that information goes a long way in helping to avoid unnecessary confusion or frustration. There will be times when circumstances won’t allow a response within 45 minutes, and this is when alternative contacts and alternative means of communication should come into play.
When adopted as an operational philosophy across an organization, open communication created by the Rule of 45 will lead to increased productivity and efficiency. The 45-minute barometer creates a window of opportunity for response, while also providing the sender with a clear time range of when they should follow up again if they have not received a response.
Businesses owe their clients, and individuals owe everyone with whom they interact, a fair expectation of when delivery will occur. It seems so simple, yet in the busyness of a normal workday, it’s very easy to overlook without an engrained philosophical commitment to respond.
By establishing and adhering to the Rule of 45, an organization can set an expectation for producing results and eliminating confusion and frustration. When this happens, everybody’s life gets just a little bit easier.
Warren Ivie is the founder/CEO of Ivie & Associates, an international marketing firm headquartered in Flower Mound, Texas. He created the “Rule of 45” based on his firsthand agency experience.