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One would think for a manager to answer the phone is a basic task. In truth it’s as difficult as getting people to come to work on time. Being a manager myself I know why managers don’t want to perform this task.
We’ve all seen managers check caller ID when their phone rings and if it’s the cashiers, return desk, or an outside customer call they let the call go right to voicemail, knowing full well they have no intention of checking the voicemail regardless how important the call may have been. Why would a manager be so lazy, you might ask? Again the answer is dumbfounding.
I’ve found managers in position for 5 or more years tend to think they’ve done their time and want to float the waves for the remaining years of their career. They became managers not so much to make a difference to people around them, but for money. Managers today don’t earn quite as much as managers of yesterday. Believe me, I know. And if they have friends and/or relatives in high company positions the managers who don’t answer their phones probably lack other skills too. Skills like inspiring employees, reaching out to customers, leading by example, training associates to be their best, or walking the walk instead of talking the walk (I actually hate that saying) are hard to find these days.
When I got promoted an employee in our phone room said to me, “David, I’m glad you got promoted. All I ask is one thing of you. Please answer your phone! I can’t get any of the other managers to answer calls.”
This was really a big deal for her because as the phone operator she took all incoming customer calls and when a customer asked to speak with a manager (there are usually one store manager and 5 assistant managers in most big-box retailers at any given time) it was important someone to be on-hand to take the call. “Sure,” I said. “You can count on me.”
I didn’t think it was that big a deal at the time. I already had a good enough reputation for someone who did answer the phone consistently. My proof was in my sales. I got one-third of my total sales just by answering the phone and speaking with someone who wanted to place a phone order. It amazed me how other sales associates didn’t figure this out. They too chose not to answer the phone because they didn’t want to get the call of a complaining customer. What they didn’t realize was they were passing up the opportunity to close sales like I was. And I didn’t keep this a secret. I actually told everyone how there’s money on the phone. But they didn’t believe me and that was their loss.
I did answer my phone consistently. If I didn’t pick up right away it was because I was on another call, had the day off, or out for lunch. But I checked my voicemail and returned calls. I even checked my emails and responded consistently. If I was on a call and my phone rang I would check caller ID. If the number was a cashier or someone at the returns desk I made sure to call the number immediately after my call was finished. Yes, this was all part of the job, but the big picture provided me with results beyond my wildest dreams.
I earned respect from employees and customers alike. That’s right! That little thing referred to as respect came my way for all my effort of simply answering the phone. Customers and employees had good things to say about me when the district manager, VP, or a client referral was made for me. They said I could be counted on. And the DM would check with employees in Town Hall Meetings and ask, “Which managers answer their phone?” My name was spoken highly of, and all because a phone operator asked me to be available when she called.
Like I mentioned, it wasn’t a big deal for me because I already knew the importance of answering phones as a salesman, so to do so as a manager was a no-brainer. It also gave me respect from many employees who wanted to work with me not only because I answered the phone, but they respected me as someone who they could count on. This is why managers need to answer their phone.
A simple thing like being available for employees and customers will earn you enough respect so when you need people to step up to the plate and give their best, they will gladly do so for you because you asked them to. If you’re there for them, they’ll be there when you need them. And as a manager you’re going to need your people more than they need you. When you have a big sales event you’re going to need everyone on hand ready to greet customers and close the sale. You need them to come to work on time and with the right attitude to help drive sales. You need them to complete daily tasks like signage, down-stocking product, receiving inventory, putting up displays, etc. This stuff will get done, but not as timely and efficiently if the employees don’t respect you.
Answering your phone is a way of showing your team when they need you (customers and associates alike) they can count on you. And you can do this not just by answering the phone. Greet your employees by their first name. Say, “Good morning, John!” Be the first one to greet them, too. Don’t walk by them silently and pass them without saying anything first because you think your title entitles you to be a snob. Managers are not better than employees. All too often people get the job of managers because of who they know versus talent and experience.
Bottom line: If a manager wants to be successful his employees and customers have to respect him or her. If a manager can’t do something as simple as answer the phone, the question will be asked, “How in hell did this person get to be a manager?” As a manager there are lots of things you can’t control. You can’t make employees come to work on time. You can’t always offer decent wages. You can’t satisfy every customer. But you can control your own actions. You can earn peoples’ respect, and answering your phone is one way of doing precisely that.
No, it isn’t any more complicated than that!