Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waiting to Hear From Me?

It's true. I was a terrible teenager. I have always loathed talking on the phone.

Now I have a business to run, and I do it by appointment, so you can imagine that it's important for me to be accessible, especially by phone.

Every so often, I hear someone complain that it's very difficult to reach me on the phone-- or that I never return calls. And sometimes they're right... sometimes they never left me a voicemail...sometimes I got a voicemail but couldn't decipher it no matter how many times I replayed it... or no one left a name.

Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to call a total stranger and say, "Uh, this is Maggie from the Art of Nailz... did you leave me a message?"

That is totally unacceptably unprofessional. Makes me feel stupid. Stupid enough to not bother calling you back. I am not one of those people who simply calls every number that shows up in my caller ID just to say, "you called me?"

Other reasons I may not return your voicemail: Your number didn't show up on caller ID and you didn't leave it. Or you didn't leave a number, so I call the number that showed up on Caller ID and no one there had ever heard of you... or I didn't have a name, so all I could do was say, "did someone here call about getting their nails done?"

Or I couldn't understand your message. Sometimes this is because people leave messages while they are driving... with the windows down... and the radio blaring... and someone else talking in the background.

Sometimes people leave messages while 27 children are screaming in the background.

Or possibly while you are at a major sporting event, possibly from the pit at a Nascar race? I have no idea what all that noise is in the background, but I can't understand a thing you said.

Sometimes people  leave messages while their mouths are full of potato chips.

And, sometimes, it's not your fault at all. Sometimes there's interference on the line, with the network, or whatever, and even though you left a perfectly respectable message, all I hear is a garbled, crunching noise that sounds like something out of a Stephen King movie.

When I get those messages, I usually try calling my voicemail back from another line. Sometimes this works, sometimes not.

Sometimes you get the voicemail to begin with because I am up to my elbows in acrylic and glitter while my client is chatting away and I just don't have a good breaking point to interrupt the conversation and answer the phone. When you're the one on the phone, I realize this is quite annoying. But when you're the client that isn't getting interrupted-- it's quite considerate.

Making those decisions is a balancing act.

I also have to consider that-- most of the time-- the person calling will be asking about booking an appointment, which means I have to stop what I'm doing, turn to the computer, and look at the schedule.

This almost never goes smoothly. It's very rare that someone calls up and says, "I'd like to make an appointment." And then I say, "Great! My next opening is next Tuesday at 1:00 p.m., what's your name and number?" And then they say, "Awesome! That'll be perfect; my name is Nancy and my number is 123-4567."

No. Booking calls go more like this:
     Caller: "Hi, I seen your website and I was wondering how much you cost for a set of Rockstar Nails?"
     Me: "A new set of Rockstar Nails starts at $65.00 and goes up depending on how many colors and elements you want in the nails."
     Caller: "Oooooooohhhh. O...K.... So, if I wanted, like, 2 colors and maybe some rhinestones, how much would you charge me?"
     Me: "2 colors would be $70 and rhinestones will depend on how many and what size, figure about a dollar a nail unless you want to cover the whole nail."
     Caller: "Hmmmmmmmm.... ok. So when can I get that done?"
     Me: (at this point, I stop working and turn to the computer to check the schedule) "The next opening I have is next Tuesday at 1 in the afternoon."
     Caller: "Oh no, I can't do that, I don't get off work till 5. You got anything tomorrow?"
     Me: "No, sorry. My next opening isn't until next Tuesday... the next thing I have open after 5 is-- (pause while I check)-- Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 in the evening."
     Caller: "What?! You're really that booked up? You don't have anything for 5 weeks?!"
     Me: "Not after 5 p.m. Sorry. My evenings are really busy."
     Caller: "Well, what if I came in on my lunch? Could you get me done in an hour?"
     Me: "A new set takes about an hour and a half-- can you take a little extra time?"
     Caller: "Yeah, I could just say I have an appointment or somethin, that's ok."
     Me: "Ok! Then I could do next Tuesday at 1:00."
     Caller: "I take lunch at noon. Do you have anything this Saturday? I could come on Saturday."
     Me: "Sorry, I don't work on weekends."
     Caller: "Oh, ok. So you don't have any openings then?"
     Me: "I have next Tuesday at 1:00."
     Caller: "Nahhh, that won't work. I'll have to call you back."

This is not every call, but I'm not making this up. This is really how many calls go. Meanwhile, I have been sitting at the computer, checking the schedule for suitable openings for all that time... not finishing my client's nails.

It's surprising how much time it really takes to book an appointment--  or end up not booking one, as in many cases.

Sometimes I just have to figure out if I'm running on schedule enough to take that much time away from what I'm already doing. If I spend 10 minutes on the phone, I might end up running into the next client's time.

10  minutes is a big deal when it comes to a nail appointment. 10 minutes is the breaking point at which I determine that a late client  is no longer just "late" but has no-showed me. If I'm going to only give my clients a 10 minute grace period, then I owe it to them to value their time as much as my own.

Sometimes you get voicemail because I'm driving. I don't answer the phone while I'm driving. Aside from the fact that I don't think it's worth the price of the ticket, I know how annoying other drivers are when they're talking on the phone, I don't want to be like them. Also, I probably won't be able to help you if I'm driving. I can't drive, talk, and check the calendar all at the same time.

Or, you're calling while I'm on the phone with someone else. I hate call waiting. I wish I could figure out how to disable it on my current phone.

Or, you're calling at weird times-- or at least "weird" times on my schedule-- such as Saturdays or before 10 a.m. I know those are reasonable times to call most salons, but they are not in my regular business hours. And on most Saturdays, I'm off gallivanting where I can't hear the phone anyway.

Or you're calling at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night. Or on a Sunday. If you call very late at night or one weekends or holidays, I rather assume that you're looking for the voicemail anyway. Those are weird times to call businesses.

But here's another thing: sometimes, technology just doesn't meet our expectations of it. For instance: Yesterday evening my phone suddenly chimed 7 times within an hour, alerting me of several incoming text messages.

I listened to them and thought, "Who's sending me all those text messages?" thinking that someone was either writing me a small novel.

When I put down the file to check, I discovered a number of messages had just been delivered from several people-- which made several emails, Facebook messages, and visits from people that had already happened, make sense.

Turns out, delivery was just slow. Who knows why these things happen? All I know is, if you sent me a text message before 6 p.m. yesterday, I didn't get it when you sent it.

And maybe that's what happened with my voicemail too? Because I checked voicemail as recently as yesterday... but today I have 11 of them, some of them dated as long as 2 weeks ago.

Now I have a list of names and numbers to call back and I'm seriously wondering if I should bother with the ones from 2 weeks ago? Do I call these people and say, "So sorry, just got your message, are you still interested?"

Or do I just let them fade away?

The problem with calling people and explaining that the techno-gremlins delayed delivery of their message is that the near-universal response is, "Who's your cell carrier?"

Because everyone wants to believe it's the cell company's fault. Oh, Sprint! They suck. My cousin has Sprint and her voicemail is ALWAYS down.

Or "Really? Verizon? I have Verizon and my voicemail always gets delivered on time."

Or, "Oh yeah, I have AT&T too, that happens to my voicemail all the time."

Point is: cell phones are not perfect. No matter who your carrier is, you will occasionally have issues with them. For the record: I rarely have problems with my carrier.

Then, last week, there was a lot of hubbub about the solar storm. I don't really understand solar storms or how they affect satellite operations-- or any other technology. But apparently they do. And apparently we had a pretty big solar storm a few weeks ago.

Maybe that's why so many voicemails were lost in the ether.

But whatever the reason, I'm looking at a list of 11 messages that I need to return. And I thought I'd blog instead.