*Climbs up on soapbox*  Responding to people is simply good manners. Not to do so is tantamount to ignoring them, which is, in my view, offensive and makes you come across as ignorant as well as unprofessional and plain rude. Surely this is bad enough if it’s your brand, reputation and professionalism at stake. But if you have business success and profitability riding on it, it must be a no-brainer! So why is it that so many people in business are so lax when it comes to being responsive?

In my first job as an HR graduate trainee in 1994, my boss used to call me Tara the Terrier, as he said that once I got my teeth into something, I showed a real terrier-like tenacity and wouldn’t let go until it was dealt with. That trait still persists in my professional life – if someone doesn’t get back to me when they should, I will hound them indefinitely, driven more by a matter of principle and a need to make a point, than a need for information or a meeting in the diary.

One of my core values is Responsiveness.  I pride myself on replying to emails, returning phone calls, responding to social media comments etc. within a short space of time – mainly because I know that if I don’t do it asap, I’m liable to forget, or get distracted by other stuff! So to avoid that happening, I make a conscious effort to respond to people straight away. I would hate to cause offence by not replying when someone has taken the time to contact me, plus I’d also hate to create a bad impression as that won’t do me any favours either!

A shame though that not everyone in business is that bothered. If I had a pound for every hour I spend chasing up outstanding phone calls, emails, voicemails etc. with even more phone calls, emails, voicemails etc., I’d have a lot more shoes. And I’m not talking about sales calls here – this is the time I spend trying to book appointments with people who have already requested work, arrange meetings to continue work in progress, obtain critical information I need for projects and reports, follow up on previous meetings and discussions etc.  And it can take several weeks of chasing, cajoling and begging before I get responses. (I’m thinking of moving to demands, thinly-veiled threats and sit-ins in their Reception areas, but of course I don’t want to come across as aggressive or a psychopathic stalker.)

Do people treat their customers that way? I doubt it. But as professionals, we should treat everyone with the same respect – colleagues, suppliers, contacts, staff, contractors, whatever. And one clear mark of respect is not blatantly ignoring those who are trying to get in contact with us! So that means replying straight away, even if it’s just to say when you’ll be back in touch with a proper response. Not only can it save the other person a lot of frustration, wasted time and effort, but it can also save your own reputation!

*climbs down from soapbox*