How do you handle returning a phone call you forgot about?
My client is constantly "too busy" to return phone calls. Then when he gets around to returning the phone call it has been awhile.
I want to help him put some systems in place, but he is hurdling this one piece. So I told him I would ask the experts.
What are the steps you would recommend?
I am the kind of person that would forget their head if it weren't sewn on. So I know exactly what your client is experiencing.
In regards to etiquette, I would suggest he refrain from stating that he was "too busy" to return a call. That immediately implies that the caller is of no importance to him. Instead, he should apologize for not calling sooner.
In regards to systems being put in place, this is paramount. If your client is lacking organizational skills, there are a plethora of apps out there that can help organize your client.
For me, I use to-do lists like they are going out of style. Secondly is any note taking application, preferably one that has reminders. Project/task management applications will also help put your client back on track.
Most of the things I have mentioned can be acquired free. The key here is not acquiring the systems, it's the implementation and willingness to use those systems. Your client may feel like he doesn't time to implement or utilize these systems. Once he gets in the habit of using them, he will see his time management and workflow has magically become more efficient.
One final note, make sure your client doesn't become obsessed with these systems and subsequently goes from one extreme to the other. A manager that spends too much time on these systems is just as bad, if not worse, than one who never implements them.
Best of luck to you!
I think the first thing would be, instead of saying he's been too busy, he should apologize for not getting back sooner. That will help him put more importance on getting back to people, and if he says he's been too busy to his customers....they will probably eventually go elsewhere for services, as they will not feel valued by him.
As far as systems, I generally put missed calls on my calendar to return the following day. My calendar is on my phone, so it's easy and fast, and I have it set up to alert me at a certain time. That way, I have a specific time of day that I'm making phone calls; both returning calls, and making new ones. Generally I think it's a simple problem to solve with discipline and time management.
I'm saying all of this from the standpoint that I used to do the same thing as him. I hope you are able to help him grow!
So many excellent suggestions here.
This is a serious issue in business today. And, in every aspect of interpersonal relations. You've heard it referred to as the Flake Factor. Getting back to people, even to let them know you are in the middle of something and will get back to them shortly goes a long way to showing respect and professionalism.
This has always been a pet peeve of mine. I have noticed when you don't get back to someone, it often leads to having a backlog and many of those messages are FROM THE SAME PERSON;-)
I agree with conveying to this person the importance of discipline, and a schedule. On my To Do List, I have a special section at the top for returning calls and messages. I track response, like whether I left a message and the date/time. This kind of documentation really helps in CYA.
Also, I definitely appreciate the concept of getting an assistant to contact folks back even if it is just a courtesy call to find out what they need and report back, so you can decide on the level of priority.
Lastly, I get back with people immediately. The first thing when I come into work or log on. This is so important and sends critical signals to those you are connected.
I think the experts above are definitely on the right track. I am always honest and apologetic when returning a missed call.
I do wonder, however. what his real reason is for not returning calls sooner. Is it because he doesn't like talking on the phone? Or because the calls are about issues he'll need some time to gather answers for or create a solution to? It really sounds to me like there's a deeper issue here. Perhaps he needs an assistant to deal with less important issues that come in.
I hope this helps.
I would recommend bringing your client to the stage where he gets the routine of returning actual phone calls on time. I had problems with that as well and I thought of a way not to forget it.
My problem was that I would forget to return the call, there was no "too busy" anywhere, because you can always find time for a few minutes on the phone. As I constantly work on my laptop, the solution was quite simple, whenever I was supposed to return a phone call I would start the Notes app on my Mac and write a simple note about whom to call (including the number if I did not have it under contacts). The notes shares this data immediately thru iCloud with my phone.
The second step was getting the habit to browse my Notes on the phone on a daily basis, which made me remember to call back.
You simply delete the notes of calls you did and voila - you do what you are supposed to do (you call back:)
I think there are similar apps for PC/Android if you are not on Apple platforms.
Note: There was no need to use calendars or reminder apps, that actually take too much time to fill in, and discourage you to use them. Notes replaces pen and paper and that does the trick.
I would recommend a good organizational tool, but I don't think it will really help for this client. So I would recommend he hires someone to take some work off his desk. If it's phone calls he's having trouble with (not just with you but with others too) then hire a receptionist / call handler. It sounds like he's just too busy to the detriment of his business and that needs to be resolved.
Sounds like he is heading for trouble if he can't return calls.
People will get offended and tired of waiting and will go down the street.
He needs to set a time of day to make the calls. No matter what he has going this time has to be set and followed. It is very difficult, but it will work it's self out. Everyone has the same 24 hours in their day. they typically work 8 to 12. of that 8 hours if he breaks it down by each hour, then each 1/ hour. He will find down time. Every day he thinks he cant make those calls is a day for someone else to make that call and take that customer.
He may need to hire someone who can.
I just read David Mans answer. He is right on. Never say to busy to call that means they are not important enough to care. Most definitely apologize for not being being be to make the call. Do it and make it right. The customer is King, they dont care about your other customers.
Hello Denise, perhaps, getting your client to cultivate the habit to allocate a fixed time slot to return missed calls will solve the problem. My nature of work does not enable me to return all calls immediately, i go around it by allocating time slots to return all missing calls, and that practice allows me to focus on tasks on hand as well.
First off, I would love to know what your client does (you don't need to say), that he takes for granted what is in those phone calls. More so, it is downright unprofessional to let calls go unanswered - unacceptable really.
Now that I got that off my chest.
I am not sure apps, processes, etc. are going to change his behavior, however streamlining which calls he has to return absolutely could - therefore this is definitely something he should be delegating out. Have all of his call go to a service (internal or outsourced) who screen his calls, determine which he needs to return now, tomorrow in a few days or never...and send only them along to him for his immediate attention.
One process for him would be to return calls at the end of each day....or pick a time, i.e. I pick mine up throughout the day, but when I know my day is slammed, I ensure I get calls picked up and answered before my first To Do, and then after my day comes to an end...regardless of how late.
Then of course, as others noted, when he forgets and has to follow up - being upfront, professional and a leader, by simply saying I'm sorry for the delay.. will be good enough.
Call back and first say 'Sorry'... :) Owning up your flaws makes you stronger!