The Returned Call: A Common Courtesy Lost

I surprised a phone solicitor today. He left a message about a service that I neither need nor could afford. He was surprised that, although I had absolutely no intention of purchasing his service, I called back. The call took less than a minute.

The return call is a courtesy that is passé today.

It’s a habit that maybe I should break.

But here is from where it stems: on my last job, I managed an advertising unit that did millions of dollars of work annually and produced over 300,000,000 (that’s 300 million) pieces of advertising for virtually every major dept. store in the U.S. and Canada. I wound up on a list of the nation’s top print buyers. Thus, I would receive up to 250 business-related phone calls, daily.

I found time to return each and every call.

Notice I said “found” time? I believe you can’t really “make” time. You’re only “issued” a certain amount of it.

My job wasn’t talking to solicitors on the phone all day. I oversaw and managed some 300 projects, “put out” client’s raging “fires”, did planning, budgeting, estimating, logistics, dealt with our valued production and print partners and actually spent a significant amount of time traveling, to service accounts.

But, I calculated that dialing a 10-digit number takes about +/- 5 seconds (yes, I actually timed it with a stopwatch…not an iPhone…it wasn’t invented, yet). Leaving a courteous message of appreciation for the caller’s time and our unfortunate disinterest in their wares took an average of about 20 seconds. Actually speaking to the person usually took less than two minutes. I would usually invite them to email or mail their info, in case there was future need…and sometimes there was.

So, returning even those 250 business-related calls could only take about 15-30 minutes.

If I had to stay a few minutes later on a Friday evening, I would do just that.

It was a common courtesy that I adopted, when starting my career, nearly 30 years ago.

It paid off. When we launched AdTex Interactive in 2003. At least one of those past “unsolicited” callers was able to provide a service that allowed us to meet a client’s unique needs and also saved us some major money.

All because of the relationship established, years after a 2-minute courtesy return call.

Everybody’s really busy, these days…supposedly. Or they might be just goofing off on Facebook, Instagram or playing Angry Birds on their smartphone.

But, consider the possible return on a simple investment of a few minutes of common courtesy.

Just a thought from your “Old School”, call-returning, newspaper-reading, watch-wearing Uncle DJ.