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The Phone Company Who Can't Call Back
Returning a phone call is a basic courtesy, a building block in our relationships: professional, personal, and social. It helps keep things even (I called you last!) and sets boundaries (Wait at least one day before calling back after a date, or they'll think you have nothing better to do); it even let's people know where they stand - not getting a return call is the modern equivalent of the Victorian "cut direct", where one would look right through a person as if they weren't there. Relationships have withered and died - or grown heated and vicious - over a call that was not made.
I'm sure you have your own scars: the friend who hasn't called you in years, an ex whose "breakup" was simply to let it go to the answering machine; the date you thought was perfect, but you never got called back; the company who interviewed you, and then seemed to have lost your number…
They may seem silly: I often say to people "Just pick up the gosh darn phone (or words to that effect) and CALL THEM!" "But I called them already! Twice!" seems such a plaintive cry. But I can attest to the power of a call not made: my mother and I spent years not talking because she thought I was mad at her, and I thought she was mad at me, and all because both of us thought we were the last ones to call.
Not returning a call can be a major faux pas. Jobs and marriages and relationships fail often, just because dialing those numbers can somehow be too hard. Hard? Why is it hard? Because calling someone is an admission that you needed them…that's why you made the call. You are reaching out to someone.
And this is why I find it so ironic that a company that makes phones couldn't return my call:
Sent on Monday via email through their "contact us" site:
Nov. 06, 2006
I purchased the base phone (model 5877) with 2 additional handsets last night. When I had issues with the phone this morning--it rings once, then disconnects (and, yes, I tried it with other phones, and my phone lines and other phones work)--I looked in the manual, checked online, and then called customer "service".
At this time I have been on the phone for 17 minutes and 43 seconds. Oh, wait: someone picked up at about 19:42. I am hoping they can help...however, it seems they can't. They will research it and then, it seems, I have to call them back tomorrow to get--hopefully--an answer.
This is unacceptable. I am the customer, and your product in not functioning. The least that can be done--since it will take a whole day to even figure out what's wrong--is call me when you have a solution. To ask me to call you back for an answer is really rubbing salt into the wound.
When I expressed this, I was told that
"the customer service people cannot call out!"
However, I am sure that someone in your company does, in fact, have an outside line.
I informed the customer service rep (who was very nice) that, if your company does not figure out a way to call me with a solution within the next 24 hours, then I will return the phones, buy from another company, and let everyone I know my experiences with VTech.
A company who cannot call a customer back when the company's product is malfunctioning is not a company I wish to do business with.
I hope to hear from you,
Now it is Wednesday, and there has been no call, no email. My husband is off returning the phone to the store where it was purchased, and I am so disappointed that a company whose slogan is "Innovation Beyond Technology" has neither the innovation nor the technology to return a call.
I know: you're going to say that the helpdesk people can't make outgoing calls, you'll say that the company needs to protect itself from employees who'll spend their time chatting instead of working, that the people I was talking to are based in another country, so calling back would be both difficult and expensive …
I don't care. There are rules about these things, and calling back with an answer is one of them.
Many more articles in High Performance Retail in The CEO Refresher Archives