Be Responsive and Be Respected

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that people have become more and more unresponsive in business situations. Emails not responded to. Phone calls not returned. Hiding behind voice mail messages.

I love this message, “Your call is important to me. Please leave your name and number and I’ll return your call promptly.” Whenever I hear this message or something similar I know there’s less than a 5% chance I’ll ever receive a return call, regardless of how many polite messages I leave.

The most common excuse I hear regarding responsiveness goes something like this – “Do you realize how many phone calls and emails I have to deal with everyday? I can’t possibility get to all of them.” I’m betting these same people take the time to regularly check their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. I’m also betting they get upset when others don’t respond to their calls and emails.

The business people I talk with regularly consider unresponsiveness a sign of weakness. The consensus is that people who don’t respond quickly and consistently are either very disorganized, or overwhelmed because they’re not good at their jobs, or overwhelmed because of unrealistic expectations which they’re afraid to address with their bosses, or they think they’re more important than they really are.

One group of calls and emails that these people don’t respond to are from sources selling products and services. The theory is, “If I ignore them they’ll go away.” Some will. Some won’t.The persistent ones will never go away.

The most successful companies I’ve worked with have a policy of always evaluating products and services that might improve some aspect of their businesses whenever they are presented. They have pre-established criteria that determine which opportunities are immediately eliminated and which are worthy of further consideration. The appropriate decision makers respond to every call and email. Those products and services that don’t meet the criteria are informed and politely asked to not make further contact. Those that do meet the criteria are scheduled for the next step, which could be days, weeks, or months down the road.

Companies that don’t take the time to establish criteria and ignore calls and emails are missing great opportunities that would contribute to their growth and success. Sadly they will never know because of their unresponsiveness.

Another group of calls and emails not responded to come from co-workers, customers and vendors asking for information of some sort. The most mentioned reasons for not responding in these situations are. “I haven’t got the information they want.” or “I don’t have an answer yet.” The old saying “no news is good news” is completely wrong in these situations. When people don’t get an expected response they create their own reasons why and those reasons are never positive.

If you don’t have the information or you don’t have an answer yet, respond with that message and your best guess as to when you’ll have what they request. Then, work hard to make sure your guess becomes reality. Those making the requests may be disappointed, but at least they’ll know their requests are being addressed.