Calling All Stalled Companies—Could growth be only a “ring” away?

He called 3 companies in early July, the week he realized he was going to need a new insurance plan. I admit I found it strange that he had to leave messages for all three, but since I haven’t had the experience myself, I had to take his word for it that this was “how they worked.”

Two companies got back to him by the end of the following week… but I never heard about the story way back then.

I heard the story last week—when the third company called him back on his request for information.

We could make this a tale about returning phone messages promptly. Two months is FAR too long—on that we’ll all agree—and I suspect that every reader of MCE is with me when I say that a week and a half was also far too long.

Imagine if only one of the three had shown him what true care looks like from his future insurance company by returning the call by the end of the day when he called!

But that’s not what this story’s about.

This is a tale about answering your phone.

If it’s within business hours where you are and you want your business to grow—answer it. This should not be “how it works” in any industry.

Some folks who are reading this may be at the head of the smallest of small businesses, operating alone or with one or two employees. If so, don’t twist yourself into a pretzel, the smallest businesses are already twisting in plenty of directions! Take the lesson as I (almost) told it. You can’t be everywhere at once, so—when you must let your voicemail answer for you, get back to your current customers and your prospects right away. Two days, at MOST. In many industries even that long will lose you the sale… though apparently not in some niches of the U.S. insurance industry.

There’s no official benchmark to tell you when that’s no longer good enough, but as a guide I’d like to suggest that the 4th person you hire* should have answering the phones as one of his or her duties (answering them to take care of the calls as an associate, or to pass them on to the right person as a receptionist, may depend on your business).

When your business is that big, you’re too big to let customers get your voicemail during business hours and still call what you’re providing Maximum Customer Experience.

And if you’re as big a small business as all three of these companies were… it’s time to put an ad in the newspaper.

“WANTED: Big friendly smile attached to great phone voice. We pride ourselves on never making the customer wait to hear that we care!”

How did it end?

“Even though I’m not switching ‘til January, I told the 3rd guys they’d missed their shot. Not because I’ve decided. I haven’t yet. Because I can’t imagine how long they make people wait once they’ve got their money, if this is how long I have to wait to try to give them my money!”


Is a week and a half okay with you, or is even that too long to wait for a call to be returned? (Is there anything that would have made you listen to the 3rd company after all that time?) How do you handle the phone at your company? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

*Who are your first 3 hires after yourself? 1) Someone who’s strong in the area of business development that you’re not (i.e., a salesperson if you’re an idea guy, or vice versa); 2) An extra pair of hands for making or doing what you do, so you can achieve three times as much (it works); and 3) A part-time bookkeeper (keep your money straight from the start and you’ll be a happier business owner).


P.S. I know I know, we love to dump on U.S. insurance companies, but (this time) it’s not simply because of the industry. I’ve heard stories like this in many fields, I just thought this one had a particularly dramatic arc to it that should be told here at MCE.