“Well, if we’re all done, I’ll just make myself scarce.” I don’t know where I picked up the expression, but it’s really cute and gets a chuckle now and then. In a more serious light, though, “making one’s self scarce” is exactly what I’m doing with phone calls, starting today. Now, me being a small business owner may incite much questioning about this new policy. Doesn’t a good business owner answer the phone and talk to customers? What could possibly be the reason behind this?
There is an article that covers this topic well which deserves an honorable mention: Should You Turn Off Your Telephone? Now I’ll answer the question about why and how I am getting away from the telephone.
I have access to three professional telephone numbers: two at the shop which are daisy-chained together by call forwarding, and my own cell phone. Both sets of phones have voicemail at the end. Well, had voicemail. About 15 minutes ago, I cut my T-mobile voicemail service off completely. Every time I made a voicemail greeting, it would politely recite the shop phone number, insist on calling that number, texting, or calling back in 10 minutes, and explaining what to press to unblock a call, followed by a request, then a demand, to not leave voicemail because I won’t get it. That request was not respected at all, and my phone would constantly blip up voicemail notification reminders despite my explicit demands to simply wait on a call back! Where did people lose their ability to understand basic English, and to respect my explicitly spelled out request and warning that I don’t check voicemail?
I felt disrespected beyond belief every time someone left a message. It’s like they said “okay, I’ll leave one anyway because I don’t give a damn about what YOU want, Mister Smarty-Pants Business Owner!” It’s like someone else spitting in my face. There’s no excuse for it. Nowhere in the realm of human decency is ignoring an explicit request even remotely close to existing, yet people do it daily. I’ve come to realize that many people simply do not consider the human factor of people in business. The reasons are obvious, but the most significant one is that each ten-minute conversation to them is one ten-minute conversation, while to me it’s just one ten-minute interval in a huge flood of calls that eventually ruins almost half of my potential work time per day. I need that time to grow my business, write some software, redesign the website, print business cards, and things like that, but instead it is completely drained away having conversations that my technicians could easily handle if callers would stop demanding to talk exclusively to me for anything and everything under the sun.
I want to be available to help everyone, but I am being forced to come to terms with the fact that I am one person with only 16 hours a day to do everything that must be done. I understand now why corporate types rarely talk to customers: it’s simply not possible to do that and still get their own jobs within the company finished too.
I have decided that I must take charge of my time. I must manage my time and treat it as the most precious resource in this company, as well as in my life. It is limited and non-renewable, and I need to make all of it count for as much as possible. If that means making a customer upset because they can’t speak directly to me, then so be it. If a customer would refuse to do business with my business simply because they can’t talk directly to me whenever they feel like it, then I wonder whether they are the kind of customer we are in business to serve. I hired and mentored a team of professionals so that I could extend my capabilities to more people, and it is extremely important that customers take advantage of their knowledge and willingness to help.
Not to mention the fact that some work might actually get finished around here now…