Business is about returning phonecalls. Of course, in the Web 2.0 age, the term “phonecall” also encompasses email and text messages, but the key point here is that business is about “returning” them.
Human beings are guided primarily by emotion. We make decisions based on emotional reaction, and rationalize them later. A purchase decision, whether it is a small item such as a pair of shoes, or a larger item, such as a car, are dominated by emotional impact, carried through the brand, the color, the packaging, the environment, the buyer’s perception of what they see and feel, and their memories of prior experiences. The same principle applies to professional services. A client will choose to work with you – to purchase you – based more on their emotional assessment of you and your company than merely of your booksmarts.
When someone sends you a message, what’s more important, the message, or the person’s emotional assessment of your treatment of that message? It is the latter, which represents, by extension, your treatment of that person? It is easy to mistake a message as just a message, just one more task in a long line of tasks to be completed. But that message is a connection; a connection between people. A timely, high-touch response to that message becomes a stronger emotional bond, a clear pathway to better business relationships.
What is high-touch? High-touch is a demonstration of caring. Not caring in the sense of saying “I love you,” but caring in the sense of saying “I recognize you – I see you as a valued person who stands out from the sea of other people in my life. I see you as someone to whom I am happy to give my time.” A high-touch response is essential if you wish to distinguish yourself in the minds and hearts of your clients.
The ideal high-touch response is always human: getting up from your desk and visiting the sender face-to-face if physically possible. Alternately, picking up the phone and making a call, either to conduct a live conversation, or to leave a powerful, upbeat voice-mail message. These live, organic interactions offer so much more potential for increasing and enhancing the relationship.
But what if you don’t have time to respond right now? There will always be times within a day or a week when too much is happening to be able to respond to a message from a caller. But this is where the danger lies. A caller – the person who sent you a message – does not necessarily know that you are busy. All they hear is silence – a non-response to their outreach, a sense of being ignored. And it is that most recent memory, the feeling of being ignored, that will last, and which will color the perception of you, and will alter their ranking of you in their emotional playbook.
Survival comes from remaining aware of opportunity and not jeopardizing your future through distraction or inverted prioritization. To respond to people promptly is to manage their needs – to reinforce the emotional bond between two humans, and therefore to reinforce prosperity both in the present and the future. An act that is definitely worth a few seconds of your “right now” time.