SURVEY SAYS: How Quickly Do You Return Calls?

March 10, 2011 ( - We don’t all have a financial adviser (in fact, some of “us” are financial advisers).


Moreover, I’m guessing even fewer are millionaires, but the Spectrem Group survey on return call assumptions (see drew my attention – if only because I don’t always manage to return calls as promptly as I would like. 

This week I asked readers how quickly they returned calls – and when they expected return calls.

Most of this week’s respondents were pretty good about returning calls; 41.3% said they returned them the same day, while nearly as many – 37.5% – said they returned them “within a couple of hours.”

An impressive 14.4% were “Johnny on the spot”, returning those calls within the hour!

The remaining 7% were pretty much split between “the next day”, “eventually”, or “I’m ashamed to say.” 

Now, as for their expectations regarding a return call, this week’s respondents were a reasonably consistent group. 

More than half (51.9%) said they expected that return call the same day, while nearly a quarter (23.6%) were looking for a return “within a couple of hours.” 

Just under 7% were expecting the call back within the hour, while 17% were ok with a next day response.

Of course, it was the verbatims that added some “zest” to this week’s survey results, both because they remind us of the variety of calls – and expectations about calls – that we all live with.  You’ll find a sampling on the pages that follow….


Actually, my expectations, both on call backs for me or for others vary based on the level of importance.  And yes, I'm judge and jury on that one.  But I'm much more likely to return your call quickly if I know what it's about.  Too often I get messages that say "Tom, I'd like to talk to you about something.  Please call me."  That becomes far less important than "I'm about to enter union negotiations / meet with a prospect / sit with a client and I'd like to walk through whether you think they should switch to an LDI strategy." even if it might not be.  "Call me" is generally not a very helpful message.

Those who don't call back promptly, get fired. If I don't expect to be treated as if I am important, I won't be.

I think it all depends on what I'm calling about.  If it's urgent, I expect a call back immediately.  If it's not, then within 24 hrs is fine.  And it doesn't have to be a call back; it can be an email.

Big caveat on the above is exactly what you said, "not every call is as urgent as others".  A plan participant at the pharmacist who can't get her insulin prescription filled, has an immediate need.  A retiree who wants to know why his pension check has not been received 5 days before it was due, and refuses to change to direct deposit, is not quite as immediate.

I'm a big fan of email communication.  It allows me to carefully ask a question on my timeframe and then allows the responder to respond in writing with a carefully drafted response on their time.  It can be a tight circle of time but it's not as disruptive as a phone call when I/they may in the middle of something else.  It also paper trails the conversation for later review.

I am certainly not a millionaire so won't comment on that but I do expect a return call the same day unless my call is made late in the day.  My pet peeve (which you did not ask for) is a recorded msg that does not tell you if the person you called is out of the office for the day or longer.  That should always be included in recorded msg and an alternative person if your call is urgent.


Should not make a difference in terms of net worth; however, with technology today and how we are so accessible (i.e. smart phones, e-mail), there really is no excuse.

A lot of people think that their issue is the most important thing that needs to get done in a day. I am not one of those people. I realize that the people I talk to are not sitting there waiting for me to call to give them something to do. I don't expect an immediate call back except for those items that are extremely time sensitive (which are very, very few).

Unless I'm out of the office for the day, I make every effort to return calls on the same day they are made.  Of course if the call comes in after I've left for the day, it becomes my number one task the next morning.

I usually include my expected turnaround in the message - and if I don't hear back soon enough, I can always pick up the phone and try again.

I'm the same way with email.  If I can't help them at the moment or need to do some research and it nears the end of the day and I don't have enough info to help them or didn't have time to, I at least email them to tell them that.  I absolutely hate it when I send an email and I get nothing back for more than a day.  Tell me you heard me and will get to it. That's all I ask.


If the message is urgent, I respond immediately and expect my urgent message to be responded to immediately.  If I receive a message and it is not urgent then I respond more appropriately.  The same day or the next AM. I expect others to respond to my messages based on the same sense of urgency.  I also like to let others know  the sense of urgency involved.

Grow up!  Not everyone thinks you are as important as you do.

If I can't return a call or respond to an email within a couple of hours, I'll shoot them an email or leave a voice mail to let them know that I received their call and will get back to them as soon as possible.

No comment

Who uses the phone anymore?

I'm not a big fan of the phone - folks who know me know they have a much better chance of getting my attention by sending me an e-mail or text.  As for the others, well, they'll eventually figure it out!

"When I worked for a family of millionaires, I got calls back from their attorneys, advisors and accountants virtually immediately. And my employers expected no less.

As a not quite millionaire investor, I think a return call within 24 hours is reasonable."

My wife, who is a millionaire by inheritance, is very demanding of our financial advisor.  She gets annoyed if she has to leave a message in the first place!


There is one exception and that is unsolicited sales and charity calls. If I do accidently answer one I'll ask "what is the percentage of the money that they receive will go to the group that they are collecting for?" that usually stops them in their tracks.

I try to return all calls within 24 hours.

Let's stop catering to the babies and help them realize that the lack of planning on their part does not create an emergency on my part.  If they try, they won't be my client for very long.

Some calls never get a return call because they have not provided a number and/or they talk so fast you can't make the number out - regardless of how many times the message is replayed.

The general rule is within 24 hours of the call coming in or going out, but my boss thinks if I place a call to someone and they don't answer, I should immediately call his/her cell phone and follow up with an email and instant message.  Needless to say, my boss has pretty high turnover in his group.

It really depends on who it is and what the subject matter is.  Some calls by their very nature can wait a bit longer than others.

Our company policy is that all emails receive a personal acknowledgement of receipt within the hour.  All phone calls are live answered during business hours and if we have to call back, it is done as soon as possible but no later than the next business day, even if it is just to tell them we are still working on it.  Communication is key to client retention.  It helps that we work in teams so emails are sent to all team members for response and there is always someone available to take calls.


We have a call center if they have to talk to someone now... After that...Calls in our department... most of our communication is by email anymore.  The few that call we have a 24 hour rule company policy.  Emails are answered for the most part same day as quickly as we can.   If they need researching items, or audit information then it will take longer but we advise them of that.    I prefer email replies over someone calling.  They write out what they want so it is clear & then we can import the emails for tracking of what was requested & replied to. I'd like a survey on the efficiency of phone calls vs emails.  Which is more cost effective.

I try to call people back with the hour and by doing so, I expect the same in return.  I guess not all people operate in the same mind set as me as some think it is OK to take over a week.

Business rule of thumb is a return call within 24 hours unless it is a stated emergency

"If I am the client, I expect a call back or some sort of acknowledgement of my call or email within two hours. It can be as simple as an email saying: ""I am out of the office but have received your question and will get back to you soon."" Or a call from the assistant. Just something to acknowledge that my question has been received.

If I am the one calling a client (i.e. I am the vendor), I'd like to get a call back within a day or two. But I don't hold my breath,"

I try to return all business calls within an hour or two except sales/solicitation calls which I usually ignore.


These were my favorites:

I just noticed that I answered "couple hours" for each. That's probably why I'm getting busy signals and voice mails. I know my predecessors operated without all this (electronic) stuff and managed (survived) quite well. I'm gonna take a deep breath and use Lent to move up (stress-down) to same day.

I am not a financial advisor, I am an HR professional (generalist).  How soon I return a call depends on whether it's one of my customers or a vendor or a sales person.  My employees and managers get immediate returns; my vendors next; then a salesperson if I happen to need their product.  I have had some sales people, particular recruiting firms, complain to my boss (the President!) that I didn't call them back.  Seems a little presumptuous to me.

I get few calls at work, so I can return them quickly.  My coworkers receive many calls (from our employees) who seem to have the same expectations as millionaires.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “Advisors who don't pamper their high net worth clients, deserve to lose them.  Some advisors are lucky enough to have superior assistants who cover for them in this regard (wink, wink)...”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!