Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, January 28, 2019
A few weeks ago, I wrote the “name tag” column. It generated an inordinately large response, which surprised me. Apparently, lots of people share my perspective. But one wag improved greatly on the idea, suggesting that the typeface also needed to be big enough to read — at greater than 2 feet away. Thank you.
Of course, the larger theme behind the column was the problem of how we communicate. How do we want to interact with others — and more important, how do we want others to interact with us? It turns out that the lowly phone number plays some major significance in this arena.
First, do you put a phone number on your website? Go to Zappos, a company that is famous for customer service. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says that he puts the corporate phone number “at the top of every single page of our website, because we actually want to talk to our customers. And we staff our call center 24/7.” Another example is Rackspace. The CEO says, “we will be available to you by phone or ticket, 24/7 — within minutes.”
By contrast, in the case of Jeff Bezos and Amazon Web Services, there is no phone number readily available. Bezos says that the “best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you.” That just goes to show you that there is more than one way to build a billion-dollar company. Now I understand that every business is different and 24/7 around the globe availability is not necessary for making restaurant reservations, but it is extremely refreshing to have it when it really matters.
I am personally put off (and often just delete or walk away) when the only way to contact a company is for me to fill out my email, give the reason why I want to contact them and finally give them my phone number (they never call me anyway).
A month ago I sent an email to a company using only “info at__.” The email said that I wanted to talk to the CEO. My request was short, direct but didn’t say much more than that I was the CEO of a tiny software company and that I wanted to talk to him.
I have a partner and he tells me that the chance of hearing from this guy is less than 10 to the N, where N is infinite. I got an email from the CEO (35 days after sending mine) that said “Your company is interesting; I am discussing with my team.” By the way, the company in question is a unicorn with over $300 million in annual revenue. Regardless of the outcome, this guy has won my heart.
While I am on a roll, please allow me to rant about the lack of phone numbers in the signature block of emails. I get a handful of blind requests every week. Someone wants me to do something for them or look at something or ask for some assistance. And there is no phone number in the signature block. It is usually only the name. Huh.
Let’s do this again. You want to contact me; you want something from me — but you make me respond by email, by LinkedIn, by Instagram, by Facebook, whatever — but if I want to just pick up the phone and call, no way. So I have now taken to not responding at all.
By extension, when I am reaching out to someone, when I want something, besides the obvious email and website, I include office phone, cellphone and sometimes my satellite phone if I want to create zero friction.
Finally, one of my partners says to me, “big shots don’t put their phone numbers on their emails. If you are an important person, you don’t put your phone.” I asked him where he got that idea, was there some research I had missed? He confessed that he just knew it; big shots are not readily available. (I did suggest to him that maybe they became big shots by being available. We all know the Gates/DOS story). As Woody Allen says, “80 percent of success is just showing up.”
So now you, my faithful reader, can decide just where you stand on the big-shot scale.
Rule No. 594