April 29th, 2010

How Late Is Too Late To Call Someone?

by Jacqueline Whitmore

At 12:15am this morning, while I was soundly sleeping, my phone rang.  I immediately woke me up, glanced at the caller ID, and noticed that someone from Philadelphia was calling.  I don’t know anyone in Philadelphia so I didn’t answer it.  The phone rang again one minute later.  This time the phone woke up my husband and my dogs too.  I glanced at the caller ID again — same caller.  I didn’t answer.  By this time I was fully awake and frustrated that someone would call me at that hour.

When I got up today, I listened to the phone message from the “midnight caller” who happened to be a student calling to schedule an interview for a business etiquette story she was writing for a class project.  Chances are, she wasn’t aware that she was calling my home when she dialed my office number (which she probably found on my website).

Most, if not all, entrepreneurs, authors, and etiquette experts work from home, therefore our office number is also our home or cell phone number.  I’ve also heard other executives say that they too receive calls in the middle of the night from co-workers, solicitors, bosses, and the like.

I once made the mistake of calling a client during off-hours.  Even though it was 9:00am my time, it was 6:00am his time.  In retrospect, I should have done my homework, looked at his area code, and then I would have realized that he lived in California and was three hours behind.  I’ll never make this mistake again.  I now play it safe and call people between the hours of 9:00am and 6:00pm only, unless they tell me otherwise.

The lessons to be learned are:

  • Find out how a person would like to be contacted.
  • Unless your call is urgent, most people prefer to be contacted via email because it’s less intrusive and they can respond when it’s convenient for them.
  • Find out what time zone you’re calling.  By taking this little extra step, you increase your chances of calling someone when they’re available and more apt to listen.

Do “off-hours” exist anymore or has technology made us accessible 24/7?  Is it okay to call someone at any hour of the day?  Let me know what you think.

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