It was a simple thank you, so why question it? Instinctively, I thought it might be insincere, but her “Thank you for returning my call” sounded authentic, almost heartfelt. It was as if I had given her the respect of which she had recently been deprived. And all I did was my job. The thank you wasn’t necessary.
I don’t think returning business phone calls is optional. Simple logic: Companies provide us with telephones to interact with anyone who can help us succeed. If we’re not available when people call, we need to call them back—not cranks and personal solicitors, but legitimate business calls. It’s good etiquette and good business. Unless I missed something somewhere, it never became OK not to return phone calls. Those from clients or prospective clients are not even in question. Not quickly returning them is just dumb. It’s the call from a supplier or salesperson who may have a solution to a need that should also be returned, as well as the call from a talented job seeker who may also satisfy a need. It’s about unknown possibilities out there that we should embrace, not reject. They just may represent opportunities that could improve our businesses. The history of business is filled with examples of returned calls that resulted in meaningful benefits to those who made them. Hiring a superstar, taking advantage of a unique vendor offer and building a relationship are a just a few examples.
If serial call ignorers were to know they’ve earned unenviable reputations of being rude and unprofessional, they might reach for their phones a lot more. And, if they were to know about the calls they did not receive—the ones that went to more responsive competitors but not to them—they’d do some soul searching. Most likely they’d also be job searching if their bosses knew about their lack of accessibility, lost opportunities and negative image, undoubtedly transferred to the company.
Truly successful businesspeople know what they know and also what they don’t know. They’re in a constant learning mode and, since the source for that learning can come from anywhere, they maintain open connections. Allocating set times each day for returning calls and keeping those calls brief (under three minutes) are simple techniques employed by business pros that enable them to return all calls within 24 to 48 hours.
Reach out and touch someone. It’s good for the soul—and it may be excellent for business.