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I am still adjusting to the Italian way of doing business, and more specifically how business is done at my office.
A few days ago, one of our account assistants came to me, worried about sending a vague email to the client since we didn’t have the final information yet (or a good answer). But of course, we had to give an answer.
“What should I say? Every time I send an email to this client, she calls me immediately after. I don’t know how to explain what happened.”
This is notorious here – our account managers spend the majority of their time on the phone explaining, confirming, reassuring, gratifying, clarifying, or congratulating the client about something.
Of course our reasons for not answering the phone aren’t because we don’t want to work. (Ma no!!) Email also provides another level of accountability, a record and an agreement between two parties which is really important in advertising because, hey, people (and especially clients) can be fickle.
It also gives you that needed time to actually to think of an answer to some of those tougher questions, which can be helpful in situations where you don’t have all the answers, or the answers you have may not be the ones they want to hear. I had some trouble with this, as you recall.
“So? Just don’t answer your phone when she calls.” Take off the kid gloves, my dear.
She looked at me like I was crazy. “What? How can I do that?”
“Ah, cara mia. No one ever told you how it works here?”
She shook her head, bewildered.
“This is critical information – in fact, it should be the second thing you learn, right after you apply for one of those special vending machine keys for the coffee machine that keeps your change.”
I brought her over to my desk.
“When it rings from the outside, you know it’s probably a client, so you can just not answer and instead try to conduct things via email. I recommend bringing a sweater or something to cover up the phone so it mutes the rings. You have to respect the Office Etiquette and a little courtesy for your co-workers, right?”
“Calls from the outside?” I had lost her a few sentences back.
“Yes, didn’t you know? One ring for outside calls, two short rings for internal calls.”
I picked up the phone and called my coworker a few desks away. Two rings.
“Really?? Oooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh!!” She jumped up and down. I had given her the Golden Ticket. The world had possibilities once again.
This was also difficult for me at the beginning, learning the office rules, what was expected of me, and what everyone else was already doing. I didn’t learn quick enough.
I was old-school, coming from the All-American Corporate World where we were out to “help everyone” and give “total access 24-7” then smooth over any problems with suavely-worded emails or voicemails. I rarely used the phone – it was all email and instant messaging. Who else relished the fact they could always press # 1 to re-record a message they had flubbed?
When I started here, my signature defaulted to include my office phone number. Until clients started calling me. Which they did immediately. Being the technical contact, when something broke often they would pass up the account manager completely and come directly to me (big no-no!).
Then I started noticing that no one else is leaving their numbers in emails. In fact, the more power you have, the more elaborate your Position Details are, and the more elusive your Contact Details are.
IM MSN/Yahoo/ICQ: xxx/xxxx/xxxx
could quickly turn into:
Director, Account Executive Manager
EAME Regional Director and Planner
Internal Strategy, Western Europe NCDE
(Find me now, suckas!)
I once spent 30 minutes looking through emails and emails and reading back in threads to see if this one person had ever messed up and left their contact number somewhere. They hadn’t.
Now I’m working on damage control with the clients that already have my number, and I keep a sweater in the office at all times. I won’t make that mistake again.