When I return a phone call, I’m receiving a salutation more often these days that I feel like I never heard a decade ago. Immediately, it’s “Thank You for calling me back.”
That’s because a returned phone call, just like an answered email, is becoming more and more of a rarity. I’m not talking about unsolicited sales phone calls or email. You can be in a professional relationship with someone and it can take days to get a response. We’re even starting to build time into projects for clients that includes follow-up, with them, the people who are paying us for our time. And this goes for “instant” platforms too. As I write, I’m waiting almost four hours to a response to a quick question sent via text.
Our business culture is less responsive than ever. The irony is, according to some significant professional service market research shown to me by a client, the top reason why a company hires a professional services firm is expertise in a particular field, followed by “responsiveness.” We have worked with multiple client firms who boast that their commitment to responsiveness is their key competitive point of difference. When you think about it, that’s pathetic. Something that should be a given is now a differentiator. Also, it’s frustrating that customers want their firms to be responsive to their needs, while too often failing to respond to the communication needed to fulfill those priorities.
Every business day, I get about 200 emails that require a response. They all deserve a response that day, even late at night if it’s a day of meetings and events, with driving in between. Every business day, I get about a half-dozen phone calls that require being returned. They all deserved to be returned within 24 hours, if at all possible. This is the hard way. We believe it’s the right way.
I know you’re “busy.” We all feel that way. Just about every business is “leaner” than ever. We are all doing jobs that used to be done by two or more people. We are all bombarded by interruptions when we’re not in meetings (that are too long). We’re eating lunch at our desks just to get the work done. But we have email at our fingertips and a phone in our hands virtually at all times. There’s just no excuse. The fundamental ingredient in every successful relationship has not changed since the days of secretaries and “while you were out” slips. That’s respect.