Twice this past week I was in two situations where someone answered their phone when it would probably have been wiser if they’d let it go to voicemail.
I understand that we are all busy, that we want to grab an important call when possible rather than extend the length of phone tag. But when we take a call at an inopportune moment, we can risk a bruise to our reputation and/or lose a customer altogether.
The first call was with someone who answered while she was, well I’m not sure, she could have been in a mall, or a grocery store, or a bowling alley. I could hear the deep echo of hundreds of different voices swirling around her. I found myself quite distracted by the sounds that moved in and out of our call.
And the noise impeded her ability to hear, so she relied on me to shout my half of our conversation. Fortunately I have that liberty to do that in my shared office space.
We often forget that phones contain microphones. Whatever noises we are hearing, the person at the other end hears as well, loud and clear. For example, if at the grocery store with a crying infant in a nearby cart, taking a call from a prospective client may not be wise, unless of course you are willing to provide context, i.e. state the obvious.
Don’t take the call and expect the other person to easily adjust to your noisy surroundings – say something! Awkward or unproductive communication can be eliminated with a simple “Let me apologize for taking your call while I’m in the (grocery store, mall, car repair shop) but I didn’t want to miss speaking with you. Are you okay with talking through the noise?”
This gives them a visual of the situation and helps them adjust their communication. It also allows them to choose to have the conversation at another time rather than compete with the surroundings.
The second situation was at the bank. The phone rang for one of the people standing in line and he chose to answer. It was the wrong decision. He is a freelance writer and it was an editor returning his call (I – and everyone in the bank – couldn’t help but overhear this). Right there in the bank line, with people chatting and tellers stamping papers and the large screen television delivering the news, this writer pitched the editor on hiring him to write travel articles.
He wasn’t successful (I could tell by how quickly the call ended) not only because of the noisy background but because he was so nervous and awkward delivering his “pitch” in that setting. He did not represent his best self in that call. I’m sure that editor was hard to reach, but the writer would still have a chance of getting that job if he’d let the call go to voicemail.
Respect your phone time and refrain from treating it casually. You just might disappoint an important customer – and yourself!
One last thought:
Several excuses are always less convincing than one. -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)
Happy dialing everyone! TPL