I’ve had a couple of people mention the fact that my phone number isn’t so easy to find on my Clerical Advantage website. It’s true, I only have my number listed in one place on my site, and although it’s kind of a no-brainer place to look for it, some folks expect it to be front and center. I’ll let you in on a little secret, it ain’t gonna happen. Why? Because I tend to discourage phone calls. I know, it may sound crazy, but keep reading and you may decide that you should be discouraging them too.
It’s not that I don’t communicate by phone, in fact I do coaching calls, client consultations and more via phone. I certainly see value in a phone (or Skype) call for certain situations. The problem lies in how you handle them. Almost all of my calls are scheduled. I do this because I know from experience just how much time a simple phone call can take from your work day. A simple 10 minute call can actually disrupt your workflow for as much as 20 minutes. If the call is unsolicited or unscheduled you can add a few minutes to both the length of the call and to the time it will take you to get back into your normal workflow. Don’t believe me? Consider the following:
An unsolicited call requires you to gather general information first (name, company name, reason for the call) before actually starting to discuss how you may be able to help the caller. Once the call is over, it’s highly likely there will be some sort of action required, even if it’s only filing the notes you took or adding something to your calendar. Before taking the call, you were probably actively involved in some work related task. When the call came in, you had to stop everything, you took the call and did the follow up action or actions. Hopefully you didn’t get distracted enough to be pulled away from your task completely, although it’s extremely common for individuals to get sidetracked. Even if you weren’t sidetracked and you return to your task, it’s going to take a few minutes to figure out just where you left off so you can start working again.
You can see how easily a simple phone call can totally disrupt your work schedule, can’t you? If you receive quite a few calls a day it can completely derail productivity.
I have a strong belief that I owe it to my clients and myself to make my days as productive as possible, so it just made sense to find a way to control the number of phone calls I dealt with per day. Not only do I try to schedule the majority of my phone calls but because I use a virtual phone system, I can schedule when I want the calls to ring through and when I want them to go directly to voicemail. The voicemail is then delivered to my email in mp3 format. There are only certain times on certain days of the week that I allow calls to ring through. This allows me to plan non-critical projects or other activities during those times that won’t be as affected by the disruption.
Scheduling calls has an added benefit as well. When I schedule a call, it gives me the opportunity to prepare for it. Usually I have corresponded via email with the individual first, so I make sure I have some idea of what the topic of conversation is going to be. Whether it’s what services might be able to help a potential client save time, a coaching call or a inquiry about a joint project I can prepare for the conversation. I find that having that prep time makes the call so much more valuable and the call ends up accomplishing more in less time.
Don’t mistake me saying that I discourage phone calls for discouraging contact. On the contrary, partly because I am careful about scheduling phone time, I strongly encourage anyone to email me and connect with me on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Responding to these methods of contact is a planned part of my work day and if a phone call would be beneficial to communication one will be scheduled.
Restricting the amount of phone calls I deal with throughout my work week has allowed me to remain strongly focused on providing my clients with individualized attention and high quality results. It helps me stand out as the virtual service provider that cares so much about focusing on her clients that she schedules her calls. And I believe it’s been one of the key components to making my business a success.
How much time are you spending during your work week answering phone calls? Could those calls be accomplishing more if you had time to prepare for them? Is your day constantly being disrupted by the ringing of the telephone? Perhaps it’s time you discouraged phone calls and encouraged true communication.