Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm sorry I missed your call

When my father retired, his friends and family threw him a surprise party, where co-workers roasted him and paid tribute. One remark that each of his colleagues made was that my dad never failed to return a phone call, and how much they appreciated that. It clearly left an impression on them -- and on me. I've lived much of my professional life on the phone, first as a journalist and now as a PIO. I made a rule for myself then that I would never fail to return a phone call.

I thought of this recently, after experiencing the frustration of having phone calls made to a couple of businesses go unreturned. One, a flooring contractor, will never get my business, and it's unlikely I'll want to patronize the other, either. Now, I'll be the first to admit that my own rule about returning phone calls is often honored more in the breach than in the observance. So I try to remind myself that I ignore a phone call at my employer's peril, and my own.

Perhaps that advertising salesman failed to mention that he's an alumnus of the university where I work, and maybe the check he was about to send us will now go to his kid's private school, or maybe to his church. Perhaps that reporter who always seems to get things wrong just lined up a plum PR job for herself, and someday I may need to turn to her for a job. Maybe she'll have forgotten those voice mail messages left in vain. Or maybe she won't.

It goes back to what I wrote about my experience this summer at Kennywood. Everything your organization does impacts your reputation. Companies invest millions building their brands. Creating great products. Running clever ad campaigns. Generating key media placements. And yet they forget that each of their employees has the power to wreck it all -- simply by doing nothing.


Dave Copeland said...

The first paper I worked for had a policy that all missed phone calls were returned withing 24 hours. And that doesn't mean simply calling someone back and advancing the game of phone tag by leaving a messages; we were expected to make every effort to make sure we got the person on the phone within a day of them leaving us a message.

It was a good policy and one I still force myself to live by (I personally hate talking on the phone and avoid it at all costs, as in friends know they should text, email or make plans to see me in person for non-business stuff).

Jonathan Potts said...

I wonder how many PR people were aware of that policy. Some, like me, make phone calls sparingly to pitch stories. Others, as we both know, can avoid the urge to pick up the phone no matter how unwelcome their phone calls.

Jonathan Potts said...

I meant "can't avoid."