Why don’t people call me back? A lesson from “Seinfeld” (DC-MD-VA Marketing Services)

I know it’s happened to you, too.  You call and leave a message for someone, maybe a friend, a colleague, or a customer.  A couple of hours go by and you realize they have not returned the call. “Hmm, that’s odd,” you say to yourself.  Then, a day…or two…or even a week.  What happened?  You think to yourself: “Did I offend them?” or “Don’t they like me?” or “They must not want to talk with me!” Why do we always assume the worst and fill in the blank with a negative?

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza goes out with a woman, then calls her the next day, but she doesn’t call back?  It’s a classic!  As the days go on, he leaves several messages, each one sounding more desperate and frustrated than the last.  He gets really panicked by the fact that she won’t call back and by the end of the week, he leaves a final message really telling her off!  But then, his date calls to say she’s been out of town and forgot her passcode to retrieve voicemail.  She did not get ANY of his messages and all is just fine from her perspective.  The episode continues with a ridiculous plot where George and Jerry scheme to prevent her from hearing the rants by replacing the tape in her answering machine (this was the 1990’s, ya know).  Very funny…

But, what a great lesson!  The next time you don’t hear back right away from someone, why not assume there is a reasonable explanation and give them the benefit of the doubt?  They’re likely out of the office or they just have not yet had a chance to get back to you.  Don’t let your imagination run wild with all sorts of negativity.  Focus on the other person’s perspective and try to be empathetic.  Follow up and check to be certain the person is doing okay and make sure that they actually got your message in the first place.  Chances are, there’s a reason for the silence, and it’s probably not about YOU!

One exception to this thought:  If you are reaching out to a vendor or a service provider of any kind, and you don’t hear back within a day, a big red flag should go up!  In this scenario, it SHOULD be about you. In fact, I tell my clients that if you don’t hear back from me within two hours, something must be wrong.  Please assume I did NOT get your message, because that’s my job – to be responsive to you!  In today’s fast-paced business world, every customer deserves this level of attention…and no one should have to feel like George Costanza.

Mike Petrusky is an Account Executive for Kayrell Solutions.  He has been offering marketing products, services and solutions to clients for over twenty years.  If he calls you, please call him back as soon as possible – he’d really appreciate it.  You can also follow him @MikePetrusky on Twitter.