May 11, 2009
I received a phone call last week from a note holder that first made contact with me over a year ago. From his voicemail, it sounded like he, at 87 years old, was finally ready to sell his note. I wasn't able to pick up the phone when he called because, quite frankly, I was asleep. No, I wasn't slacking - the caller lives on the east coast and I'm on the other side of the country. I don't think I'm being unreasonable by not being in my office by 5:15 am PST, when his call came in.
I promptly called back at 7:00 am PST, when I got into my office. Nobody picked up, so I left a voicemail. No return phone call that day, so I called again the following morning and left a message with the note holder's wife. I left another voicemail two days later. Today, a full week later, still no return call.
What does someone stand to gain by not returning phone calls? OK, more time to attend to “more important” things. But what’s more important than transacting potential new business? Obviously I don’t ask my customers why they won’t call me back, but I did pose the question to a few of my colleagues who have gotten a (ahem) 'reputation' for having ‘nocallbackitis’. Here are some common responses I’ve gotten when asking why they aren’t more consistent in returning their calls:
“I’m too busy to return my phone calls.” No worries…eventually everyone will stop calling and you’ll have PLENTY of spare time once you’ve lost all your customers.
“If it’s really important, they’ll call back.” Not necessarily…if I call Home Depot looking for a product and nobody picks up, I don't leave a message; I just call Ace Hardware instead. In my own business, I know my customers won't waste their time waiting for me - they will just call the competition and forget me as quickly as they found me.
“I would never ignore a really important call.” Who makes that determination? What if the caller, somebody you’ve never heard of, was actually referred to you by an existing customer/client? Referrals are gold, and you’re going to treat them like scrap metal? Not only do you slam the door on potential new business, but you’ve likely jeopardized your relationship with the referring party.
Early in my career, I had a meeting with one of the company’s attorneys in his office. He had just returned from a week’s vacation, and his inbox was about two feet high with documents, files, and assorted papers. The pile was directly between us, restricting our view of each other, and his trash can sat directly below the pile. In one sweeping motion with his left arm, he pushed everything in that inbox into the trash can below. He noticed my shocked gaze and said, “If there’s a fire, it’ll find me.”
I will never forget that. In his position, he could apparently do something like that and get away with it. As an owner of my own business, I simply can't afford to take that same kind of attitude: I'd quickly starve.
Note holders are our lifeblood; we make it a priority to call you back. If you ever call and can't get ahold of me, I'm usually just on the other line and will return your call promptly. That, or I'm sleeping.
Make it a great week.
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