My Cellphone Dilemna

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?



0 thoughts on “My Cellphone Dilemna”

  1. I’m not sure to say, Ditto, Amen, Right On! Or all of the above, but You are so right! I often let my phone go to voice mail! Although I may miss a few opportunities, it allows me to be present with the person I’m with, to have some down time, and to be better prepared when I do respond to the caller! Hmmm, wonder if I should apply the same to Online Messages and Emails!? 😉 Brian Hurlburt

    • Thanks, Brian, for your comments – and your language. Our success does come from our ability to “be present”. mj

  2. Sounds very civilized to me! Once again, common sense from The Phone Lady! And, I ABSOLUTELY allow my phones to help keep me organized and professional. If I am available to take a call and have the time to focus on it, then I pick up. If it is an interruption, I let it go to voice mail, so I can call back as soon as I have the time to offer the caller the attention they deserve. This allows me to manage my business instead of it managing me.

    • Thanks, Natasha. And now matter whether we are entrepreneurs or managers, we want to avoid our business managing us. Well said! mj

  3. I totally agree with you, having my total attention to clients on a call it is a must, and cell phones, well are most for other kinds of circumstances. I also believe in time off and on from my business, having that space allows me to be fresh and ready for the time I am available. As a note, I understand there are some jobs that require it all the time and mostly I feel sad about a person who is under that burden.

    • Thanks, Joe, for your comments. It’s true that some jobs do require the cellphone contact and you are right … I think it would be a burden. mj

  4. Great perspective. I offer it once in a while to team members as a “just in case” when I’m not able to attend something live to support them. I don’t advertise it to my Epicure customers. I do use caller ID to my advantage – many people are so used to their calls not being returned they just don’t bother leaving messages anymore. Is that lost potential business really the kind of business you want? Not me.
    For my interpreting business I do advertise my cell phone because it’s a traveling business and often appointments are cancelled/rearranged/postponed on the go, and because with no better option in Canada, Deaf clients will primarily use text messaging to contact me. Very specific purposing though!

    • Thanks, Krysta, for sharing your experience. I love your language – “specific purposing”. That’s exactly how I see cellphone technology.

  5. I completely agree with all your points.

    While my cell phone is my primary number, i always worry about the quality of the connection and whether the party on the other end of the line can hear me properly. We also have to understand that, as a caller, it is important to leave a message and as the recipient, to return the call within a reasonable amount of time.

    As usual, I enjoy your posts.

    • Thanks, Mario, for your comments. Yes, the noise levels around a cellphone have a much larger impact than they do around land lines. Love your comment about returning calls too. mj

  6. Was interested in your reasons for not using your cell. I think exactly the opposite!

    I use only my cell number because:
    • Biggest reason – People only ever have to call one number –I have an office in my home and an office outside – different numbers. If I am going to be available, my cell always works
    • If I am with a client it goes to voicemail
    • I always return messages
    • I am trying to update the voice message every day so people know when I will return calls
    • If I can’t take a call because of personal reasons (at night or on the weekends) I let it go to voice mail.
    Interesting discussion – thanks!

  7. If you were to consider never missing any call (which is my stance) the simplest thing to do, and what I’ve done for at least 15 years, is to forward your office calls to your cell. I’m probably somewhat different from you in that any call could be the call that I’ve been waiting for so I want to get them all. When I go to Morden where there’s very spotty cell signal, I re-forward from my cell to the cottage. So I have my home and business calls from my home/business number all forwarded to my cell whenever I leave home which is now also my office. I do it automatically before I go out the door every time but you could be more selective about that and still get all calls when it’s important, without publishing your cell number. Just an alternative :o)
    Randy Brennan

    • Thanks, Randy. This is a great suggestion and I love how you have developed such a specific routine around your phone communication. Bravo! mj

  8. Dear Mary Jane,

    Regarding 24/7 accessibility, I am with you one-hundred percent.

    I joke that my cell phone access is by invitation only.

    You’ll notice it is not in my signature, below…

    Happy Autumn,



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