I got back to the
office late one afternoon last week. I looked in my telephone message box
and, happily, there were three messages.
Three people who wanted me.
Never mind that one was from my wife
and another from my mother. It was the third one that mattered Ė a name
I didnít even recognize, a stranger who took the time to call me.
I looked at the return number. It
had an area code I didnít recognize, obviously far away. There was no
company name. I immediately guessed it was a cold call from one of those
investment guys that insist on making my future financially secure.
I was 99 percent certain, but I
returned the call anyway, for two reasons: 1) the 1 percent change it
might be someone I actually wanted to talk to and 2) I always return phone
When the receptionist answered with the
name of the company, a recognized brokerage house, I knew the 99 percent
guess was on target. Still, I asked for the caller, who was amazed to
learn I returned his call only to tell him I wasnít interested in his
investments and never would be.
There was one other reason I returned
that call. On another day last week I got to the office and made five
phone calls. None of the five people I was trying to reach was available.
So I left a message asking them to call and sat back and waited.
Not one of them returned the call.
Never mind that one of them was my
mother. I can handle that. It was the three business calls I made that
were unreturned that was so irritating.
Iíve never quite understood why
people donít return phone calls. The standard answer, of course, is that
they have been so busy they just havenít had the time.
While that is certainly true in the
short-term, and very understandable, Iím talking about people who simply
ignore phone messages, knowing that the person will call again. And again.
And again, until they catch you at the right time.
And thatís just plain rude.
Everyone has run into people like that
at some time in their business career. I know Iíve run into far too
many. My guess is that they simply crave attention, that their egos are
soothed by the thought that there are people out there who want them. And
if they can prolong the quest, all the better.
Sure theyíre busy. But most times the
phone conversation, if it finally happens, consists of a quick question
and answer and lasts less than two minutes. Show me someone who canít
spare a couple of minutes and Iíll show you someone who could use a
course in time management.
Most people arenít serious offenders.
They may not return the cold calls from stockbrokers in New York, like I
do, but they generally find time within 24 hours to return calls from the
names they recognize.
Itís the habitual offenders that need
a good swat on the fanny. If you donít catch them at the right time, you
donít catch them. They think you have nothing better to do than dial
their number 16 times a day with the faint hope theyíll be available.
And their poor receptionists. Some are
as belligerent as their boss, but most are apologetic, promising to do
their best to get the big buffoon to call you back.
They rarely succeed.
Finally, when I call the 17th
time, the receptionist is on a break and Mr. Bigwig reluctantly picks up
the phone. The conversation always goes like this.
Bigwig, hi, itís Nick Hoppe.
Mr. Big Wig:
(Pause while he realizes heís trapped) Nick! How the hell are you! Geez,
I think I have a message here to call you (rustling of papers). Iíve
just been swamped.
I know. Iíve been trying to reach you for two weeks. You sure are a busy
Yeah, itís been a real busy time. Busy, busy, busy. How are you doing?
been busy , too (you arrogant noodlebrain).
Good. So what can I do for you?
not much. I just wanted to tell you that I learned two weeks ago that your
bookkeeper is embezzling $100,000 per day from your account.
My god, Iím ruined! Why did you wait so long to tell me?
(suppressing a smile) Just luck.
Anyway, thatís how those
conversations should go.