We all have anxiety that builds when it comes to making that one particular phone call. We need to dial the number and make contact, but what if he/she is in a bad mood when we call? What if the conversation doesn’t go well? What if this sets us back instead of getting results? We all have to make calls that give us a slight nervous twitch - the question is, when do we do it?
Never ever ever
Don’t call someone on a Monday morning at 8 am, unless you are a family member. Just don’t. And of course, never call someone at 3 in the morning, even if you’re having the best time in the VIP lounge. Just saying.
If you don’t know the person, and you’re calling to introduce yourself, then try the landline (remember those things with wires?). Yes, companies still have switchboards and landlines and PAs who screen calls. So, unless you know someone and feel comfortable to call them on their mobile phone, rather first try the office line. It’s a sign of a respect. It shows you understand how the world of telephone etiquette works.
Don’t ever call people from a noisy location, like a bar or a busy mall. That is worse than the brush-off call from the car, which basically says you are too important and too busy.
Be careful when calling someone on their mobile phone – you never know where they may be.
The almost call
Sometimes we simply need to call to provide peace of mind. To assure them that we have not forgotten their request and that we are on the case. If you call a person in their office at lunchtime, on their work landline, there is a very good chance they are not available – then you can leave a message (and make sure it is a positive, enthusiastic message). This will serve as a gentle reminder that you got their back.
On the other hand, you may be the one waiting for someone to update you on something. In this case, leave a lunchtime message as a subtle nudge to get back to you.
The best time to call
Try catch people when they are most likely to be in a good mood. Without a doubt, the best time to call someone is on a Friday afternoon. The weekend is around the corner and the pressure of the week is typically easing off. People are more relaxed, generally, on Friday afternoon. Strike while the iron is hot and their sundowners are cooling.
Month end is generally better than the beginning of the month.
Calling people during the festive periods is always good. But try avoid a heavy agenda. Those times are good for simply reminding people that you care. Or perhaps to give them a light reminder nudge.
One of the challenges with all this mobile technology is that sometimes we need to call someone but we don’t know where they are. That can be a bit tricky. I remember I once had to call a man called Johann. He answered with a very quick, “In a meeting … please call me back at lunchtime.” Lunchtime? Where in the world was he? It was lunchtime where I was, so, oy … yes, it did cause me some stress. In these situations you might consider a text or email to confirm a convenient callback time.
Did you know that the word “hello” was invented after the telephone? True story. It is a modern word. The telephone instrument made a ringing sound and you picked up the receiver and went, “Hello.” Lionel Richie even wrote a song about it. Sort of.
The telephone has its rules and etiquette. When you call someone, pay attention. Don’t be reading your e-mail for example (they will hear you pressing the keys on your keyboard, and it is simply rude). Don’t shout. Luckily, these days, we can’t really slam down the phone anymore. You can try, but it will cost you if you break your expensive smartphone. Rather try Mobile Flight Mode, it’s the safest way to do this and create a smile.
The voice mail is another slippery slope. What do you do if you don’t catch someone? Leave a message? Some people explicitly say in their voice mail message not to leave a message, so, don’t if they spell it out loud. I generally leave a message if I know the person and have a good relationship. If it is a stranger or someone I don’t know well, I often try them later or the next day.
When you’ve chatted with someone and it has been a good conversation with important business points tabled, then following up with a thank you mail, highlighting the salient points, is a good move. Or a quick, friendly WhatsApp thanking them for their time. You could also try a mobile version of an icebreaker like Some Respect. Or if you know them, Short Stop and Double Take are cool things to send over WhatsApp.
If you know someone and have a good relationship, then you can feel confident to call them anytime. But if you’re getting to know someone, follow a more disciplined code, and don’t disturb them after working hours. Always be polite and never call someone from the car, unless you are super close to them (relationship-wise, not close to their car in traffic). Nothing is worse and more annoying than a call where no one can hear anything. And don’t be a psycho – calling someone every 10 minutes is not cool.