I’ll Call You Right Back!

We’re pushed on a deadline, or another call has come in, or everything is happening at once and we’re on the phone.  We’ve all said it.  The automatic response – “I’ll call you right back.  Give me five or ten minutes.”  It is almost as automatic as asking “How are you?” when we run into someone in the hallway, at an event, or wherever, and we intend to keep on running.  But keep in mind, in business the automatic “I’ll call you right back.” can have important implications to your business relationships.  When you say that to a customer, a prospect, or other key relationship and don’t call them back quickly, there just may be a result you did not want.

Calling them back because you said you would is the thing to do.  Taking a minute to make the call and explain “I am fighting fires today and everything seems to be happening at once.  Can I call you tomorrow at 10 when things have calmed down and I can give you my full attention?”  Or words to that effect.  This has two positive results.  First, and very important, you keep your promise!  It also makes sure you have time set aside to return the call and have the conversation which needs to happen with the client, prospect, colleague…They wouldn’t have called if they didn’t need to connect with you at some level, even if it seems to be a casual catching up a call.  Something motivated them to call to “catch up,” so keep that in mind.  If things are truly hectic, set a time to call back a bit further out, but set a time to “catch up”.

What you don’t want to do is say “I’ll call you back in ten minutes.” and have someone waiting for a call which never comes.  They also have things to do.  They may need something from you, and it may be something they can get from someone else – a competitor for instance.  We all know none of us is the only option, no matter how much we would like to be or believe we are.  Ten minutes may become fifteen, but leaving someone waiting for your call can really leave that person hanging!

If you are really swamped when someone calls and you may NOT be able to call them back, it really is okay to say that.  “You’ve caught me trying to make a deadline on this project and a thousand other things seem to be coming up.  I’d like to say I’ll be able to call you back in ten minutes, but I can’t promise.  Do you need something today – is this an “emergency” situation or can I get back to you tomorrow or next week?”  Take a few seconds more to triage your calls and set a priority – gather some additional information and if necessary be able to hand off the call or refer the person to someone else.  Make a commitment you can keep to the person on the other end of the phone.  Then keep the commitment to call back.  Even if you can’t keep the full extent of the intent of the call – you intended to have a 30-minute conference call and you can talk for only 5 minutes, for example.   Call for the 5 minutes.  Maybe you needed to talk for 5 minutes and you can talk for only 1.  Make the call!

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