This is not a business fable, but it would be great if you treated it that way, taking the lesson from the reading instead of learning from experience. In late April I enjoyed spending about three hours with the dynamic Carissa Reiniger, of Silver Lining Limited. She is working hard to create valuable links between large corporations and successful entrepreneurs. Currently Staples, Rogers, Intuit, HP, Citi Cards, WestJet and UPS are all involved, offering discounts and special services to the entrepreneurs that have grown to admire and trust Carissa. Right across the country, when Carissa shows up to deliver a workshop, loyal entrepreneurs are there to welcome her. She’s an inspiration and we enjoy learning from her. So, in late April, at the end of her seminar, she handed out applications for Citi Card which, if we filled them out, would provide us with some immediate discounts at Staples. Of the approximately 25 people that were there that evening, I’m guessing about half of us filled out an application. And this was a countrywide tour, so imagine what the numbers were in Calgary, or Vancouver, or Toronto…you get the picture. Early last week, I received a voicemail message from a bored, uninterested person who didn’t have my right name (Mary Copps is my cousin), mumbled where she was calling from (I had to listen to the message three times and I still didn’t get it), left me a toll free number and a reference number and…that’s it. The tone of the call left me believing it was one of two things – a collection agency (which wasn’t plausible) or a scam (like those companies that try to convince you that you’ve won a free vacation if you give them your credit card information). I’m a bit pressed for time these days, so I didn’t call back. I thought “If they call again, I’ll see what it’s about.” They did call again. Different young woman this time, but same bored, almost illegible message, but I had told myself I’d follow it up, so I called the toll free number. That’s when everything became clear. The call was from Citi Card, following up on my application. There was the standard voicemail which included a number to press for customer service and then (OMG!) I was told that they were experiencing an unusually high volume of calls and that it would be at least 10 minutes before someone would be able to speak with me. I honestly considered waiting, because I wanted so much to share with the company the horrid mistakes they were making, but then I thought of the two bored women that had left me messages, of how, even if someone did take my call, they would be less than interested in what I had to say. My need for a credit card is minimal to non-existent. I hung up. What an amazing opportunity Citi Card was given by Carissa and her team at Silver Lining … and how casually it has been wasted. Someone, somewhere assumed that they could put anyone on the phone to call prospective customers (no training needed), have them say anything, even get the name wrong. And if these prospective customers did call back, well it’s a toll free number, they’ll stay on the line as long as it takes in order to get our credit card. Yikes! If this is how you treat me before I’m your customer, what comes next! And what about you? What is your phone presence – your incoming voicemail message, the messages you leave, the way you answer your phone, saying to your prospective customers? You may not have Carissa out there delivering opportunities to your door, but opportunities will arrive at the other end of your phone. Don’t squander them!! I’m hoping I’ll have an equally entertaining fable about Rogers next week. It’s still in the works and could have a surprise ending. You never know. Happy phone work! TPL

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