What should I say?

So, tonight, I attended another MACC winner. Barry knows how to throw a party. Ira Toyota, Bugaboo Creek, and Milford National Bank put it together with some help from their friends and I watched a lot of business happen. Terry Shepherd was as engaging as usual. Frank Aubuchon was everywhere. Oh, by the way, Martha Whyte was one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. Small wonder that her husband is as busy as he is.

Near the end of the evening, I wound up in a group that included a couple of people that I didn’t know yet, Martha Whyte, and Tom. Martha was singing my praises to the people that I didn’t know (Sometimes she’s downright embarassing.). At the same time, Tom told me that he called me and that I didn’t call him back. I asked Tom a bunch of questions and found out that he called me a couple of months ago because he had a collection issue. It sounded like I had a lot going on. Since then, he’s given the case to somebody else. When I asked, “So, no harm, no foul. You got paid, right. He said, “No, that he had just given it to the other guy two weeks ago.” Meanwhile, I interrupted Martha singing my praises to the people that I didn’t know and said, “Martha likes me. Tom doesn’t. Go ahead, Tom, tell them how I don’t return calls.” Who won? I don’t know. I left.

So, here’s the deal. Tom called me. I don’t remember. He remembers that I sounded busy. He never called back. There are 31 million seconds in a year. Obviously, I was trying to fit too much into the 30 seconds that I was talking to Tom. I should’ve called back. I didn’t. By Tom’s attitude, he’s never done that. I admit it. He’s a better man than I. More service oriented than I. Way more successful.

You be the judge. What should I say?

Should I ask him how come he never called back? He noticed that I had a lot happening. He couldn’t guess what happened and give me a second chance?

Did he call me because he thought I could solve his problem? Was the problem important? If it was, how come he didn’t call back? How come it took him six weeks to call somebody else?

I repeat that I don’t remember Tom’s call. You be the judge. What should I say?

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6 thoughts on “What should I say?

  1. Pete and I were just talking about this today; how many times do you call someone back before you stop chasing? We agreed (I think) on a rule of three. So on my first call and I get voicemail, I leave a message with my name, who connected us, and when they can reach me back. A day or so later I call again with a similar message, expecting a call back. A week later it’s a “Still haven’t heard from you so I guess you don’t have a problem to fix and I’m going to tell _______ that you must be all set. If you do still have trouble, call me back.” Now we were actually talking about calling someone that we were told to call. I think there is no winning with someone like Tom. Whether you did or did not fail to return the call and whether you did or did not sound hurried when Tom called you, is completely irrelavant! Nothing you can say will change Tom’s perception or convince him that you treated him better than he thinks you did. Best to let Tom be and when the other company fails to collect for him, he may call you. Paul

  2. Rick, here’s what I would try to do in that situation: First, apologize to Tom. I want to return every call in a reasonable amount of time, and when I fail to do so, I feel that I’ve broken a social contract, albeit a minor one, and an apology is in order. The reason why I failed to return his call (and the fact that his attitude makes the apology more difficult) is irrelevant. It needn’t be abject groveling–just a simple, heartfelt “I’m sorry” is fine. Second, I’d take a look at *why* I didn’t get back to him. Was this missed call part of a larger pattern? If so, do I need to tweak my systems for dealing with incoming requests, or do I simply need to be more diligent? At a deeper level, is it possible that I let this one slip through the cracks because I didn’t want to talk to Tom or deal with his request more forthrightly? And at an even deeper level, am I trying to do too much? Am I in over my head right now? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then I have some more work to do. Finally, having done my best to make amends and having considered and dealt with any larger implications, the most important step is to forgive myself and move on. If Tom is willing to accept my apology and move on with me, great! If not, that’s too bad, but life is too short to worry about people who hold silly grudges. Hey, I think your phone’s ringing 😉 Ed

  3. Ed,Your second point reminded me that someone called me the day before yesterday asking if I had reviewed the package that they had sent me two weeks ago. At first, I didn’t, but as he gave me more details, I vaguely remembered a conversation and receiving a package for review. I told him that I would call him right back. It turns out that I needed a legal review on the package and one of my associates had the file, but hadn’t gotten back to me so we could reply to our prospective client.Let me point out that this is entirely my fault because I didn’t follow up with my associate in a timely manner so that I could reply to my prospect and this is not acceptable.So, I do apologize to Tom (if my reaction last night wasn’t enough), but I also thank him for mentioning it. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t know that I had to fix it.Thanks, Ed. Great coaching!For those of you who don’t know, Ed is an Executive Coach and an expert on Change Management. You can read his blog here: http://www.edbatista.com/

  4. Paul, you may be right. I interpreted Tom’s body language, facial expression and tonality as being more interested in “busting me” than in getting his problem solved. But that was my interpretation. I may have been right last night, but I was not right when I didn’t call back as I should have. Compare me to the garage door dealers in my prior post. What’s the difference? I (as they) did not return a prospect’s call. I (as they) lost a sale. Tom and I may not have been able to work together for other reasons, but that does not excuse me from being professional and returning his call. Finally, I’m not going to try to change Tom’s impression of me. He absolutely has the right to tell the world that I didn’t return his call. It’s true! He has to decide for himself whether it’s me or not and the only thing that I can do is fix the problem that he brought to my attention and continue to give the service that Martha was bragging about. I would also never wish that the other company wasn’t successful. Three reasons:1.) Spite is negative and as bad as holding a grudge.2.) Just because I gave Tom crappy service shouldn’t mean he’s gonna get crappy service from everybody (Unless he’s the customer from hell.).3.) In the big picture, it’s better for “think about its” never to buy. When they do, it reinforces bad behavior. If Tom were ever to bring that case to me, might I think, “Well, I got it anyway. So, what was the harm?”? Losing Tom forever makes me stronger. Tom, I’m sorry that you were the recipient of what I hope is my exception, but thank you for bringing it to my attention so I can make myself better.

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