Giving Good Phone


Here’s the situation: a friend is going to court tomorrow morning. She’s innocent, and while I don’t know that I have anything that can be used to help her, I’m certainly willing to help in any way I can. I offer to talk to her attorney if she (the friend) wants me to. She does and calls her attorney to relay my name and number. I am on the phone when the attorney calls, but I return the call as soon as I am off the phone. It’s about 3 minutes after noon – lunchtime – so I leave a voice mail that goes like this:

“This is Jeanne Hewell-Chambers returning [insert attorney’s name]’s call. I can be reached at [insert my phone number, area code first of course]. I should be here most, if not all of the day. I look forward to talking with you soon.” All said with a smile because you can hear smiles on the phone. It’s inexplicable but true.

Three, almost four hours pass and I hear nothing. Now I know that if the attorney and I are to talk, it has to be today, so I pick up the phone and call back because she and/or her assistant (I don’t know if she has an assistant) may not have thought to check for messages after lunch. Or maybe she’s in court this afternoon. Or maybe the sticky note with my number got covered up on her desk. Or maybe she had a heart attack, God forbid. The maybe’s stretch out into oblivion, so the only sensible thing for me to do it call back, to return the call a second time.

“Law offices of [insert name(s)]” is the greeting. She also says her name, but it’s blurred because she says it so fast.

“This is Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. I’m returning [insert attorney’s name] again. Is she available?”

“She’s booked in meetings all afternoon.” A brief pause then, with a much nicer tone of voice: “Oh wait. Jeanne Hewell-Chambers. I know she wants to talk to you, but she’s in meetings all afternoon. It’ll be after 4 before she can call you.”

Notice anything?

I’m gonna’ help you out. In no particular order, here’s what would have catapulted this attorney’s assistant into the gold star realm of customer service, making both the attorney and the assistant hugely credible and desirable:

1. She could have (and should have, in my opinion, because I used to teach exceptional gold star customer service) (I am a girl raised in the South, customer service is what we do every day of our lives). Anyway, the assistant could have/should have taken the initiative to issue me a courtesy call to let me know that she got my message, that the attorney is in meetings all afternoon and will call me when the meetings end.
2. All of the above PLUS: When she tells me when the attorney will be able to call me, she asks if that time will be convenient for me. Let me rephrase: She asks if that time will be convenient FOR ME.
3. She confirms my phone number.

Little things are huge. Why is it so hard for people to think of things like this? It doesn’t increase the overhead by a penny while the return on investment of the extra minute is priceless.


  1. jane

    it is entirely dependant on whether they think you are doing them a favour or visa versa… and often these folk consider they are Too Important to bother with pleasantries for plebs. I had a similar situation with a Practise Nurse from my GP, who rang me on my mobile (meaning I am out and about and there fore not necessarily at leisure) I answered while driving (worried that it may be my kids) and she did not ask about whether it was convenient and proceeded to tell me some unsettling news and then treat me with unveiled scorn when I said “no I do not want that procedure”. twice. Because I would have to be thick not to do exactly as she said because that’s right she is too important and knows everything. Gah. and I am not even from the South. I am just a human who deserves to be treated as important in a process in which I am participating. xxx If she rings again and is sassy send me her number.

    • whollyjeanne

      it’s that damn tyranny of rightness (i’ve forgotten your exact term – promise to remind me some time because it’s spot-on right) shining through again. and it obviously blocks the ears and brain of the tyrant.

  2. sarah

    this takes a trained mind thinking beyond the reactive state in which most people spend nearly all their time. you are correct that it takes no more energy, if the mind is alert.

    • whollyjeanne

      as always, you hit the nail on the head with grace and eloquence.

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