Friday, March 23, 2007

Returning Calls

219 Returning Calls

People here in Moote Pointe seem not to return their phone calls. It must be much busier than it looks. Either that, or the speed of sound is far slower here than it is anywhere else on the planet.

You’d figure that people who were in the business of selling stuff would respond to customer inquiries. Wrong. At least not often.

You’d think that medical offices would return messages left from patients in need of care. Wrong again.

You’d think that acquaintances would return phone calls inviting them to dinner. Not so much.

And it’s not a generational thing. Recent non-returners have ranged in age from 17 to 84. That’s a pretty broad demographic range.

No one answers. No one returns messages.

And, admit it, you’ve seen this happen. You’ll be talking to someone and their cell phone will sound. (Notice, please, it’ll “sound,” not ring. Cell phones don’t ring. In fact, pretty much NO phone rings anymore.) Anyway, here comes the call and the guy pulls the cell off his belt and looks at the caller i.d. window and ignores the call.

A few minutes later, the phone sounds again to signal there’s a voicemail message. That, too, gets ignored. You know this guy’s not going to listen to that message. You know he’s not going to return the call.

This is opposite from what happens in New York and Los Angeles. (And London, Beijing, Moscow, and Frankfurt.) There, people return calls. Sometimes when they shouldn’t. Like when you’re in a meeting and about to sign papers for a five billion dollar stock swap? And the phone rings and the seller takes the call and the blah blah blah goes on forever. And when it’s finally over, the call taker says “oh, so sorry about that, but I HAD to take that one.” Immediately thereafter, the phone rings again. And guess what? Another emergency.

Which is among the reasons people are always in meetings. They don’t really meet. They simply gather in rooms and take telephone calls unrelated to the topic of the meeting.

Is there a middle ground here? No. Just two compatible extremes. Return your calls. Don’t make or take new ones when you are committed to something else.

In olden days, Avis Rent-a-Car had a policy: collect phone messages and return them at a specific time each day. At Bloomberg News, the original (but not the current) policy was to require any meeting that ran more than 45 minutes to be finished standing.

And then there’s the Wessays rule of meetings: If there are more than three people involved, nothing will get done because everyone will be busy either grandstanding or figuring out how to grandstand when the other grandstanders stopped.

It’s even worse if it’s a teleconference (although who has time to call into one of those,) and worse still if it’s a videoconference.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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