I’ve been contemplating some criticism I received back in August about how I handle incoming calls. The Wall Street Journal article had just been published and there were people from all over the world reaching out to me. And for many of them their expectation was – because I’m The Phone Lady – that I would answer my phone every time it rang.
I was startled by this expectation but I did miss a few business opportunities by not being immediately available. For at least two weeks I received numerous calls each day with no message attached and some of those are definitely lost possibilities.
So I took the critique seriously and thought about advertising my cellphone number, allowing people to reach me for more hours and in a broader range of circumstances.
It likely won’t come as a surprise to most of you that I abandoned this idea. I’ve never been a big fan of the cellphone; held out for years before acquiescing to owning one. The primary reason its in my pocket is so I can check email (and call my husband from the grocery store!).
Instead I empower my voicemail to be a fabulous receptionist. I am diligent about checking messages throughout each day and, while I know my work is important and valuable, reaching me shouldn’t carry the same urgency as often applies to perhaps software support or a physician.
I choose not to use my cellphone as my “office” number because:
1) When I’m not in my office I’m with a client. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you, but the client I am with deserves my full attention – the same level of service you’ll receive when we work together;
2) Every phone conversation requires focus. Answering my cellphone regardless of where I am or what I’m doing means that distracted and incomplete communication will take place – and this goes against my brand;
3) I can be a klutz when it comes to details. I compensate for this weakness by asking lots of questions and taking lots of notes. A cellphone conversation that occurs while I’m rushing between meetings does not allow me the time and attention I need to be my best – and deliver my best;
4) Background noise! Even the most benign coffee shop can suddenly morph into a humming, echo-filled, cutlery-clattering monster as soon as I decide to talk on my cellphone;
5) Although I work at it diligently, I do struggle to get the sound of interruption out of my voice when I answer my cellphone. I would much rather you reach my cheery, welcoming voicemail message than hear me sound annoyed; and
6) And, while my family and close friends may shake their heads at this one, I do believe in down time. Sometimes the very best way for me to serve my clients, create great workshops and design new scripts is to give myself a bit of silence and let ideas surface.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you make yourself constantly available? How do you deal with the challenges involved? Or, if not, why not?