5 Lessons from a Missed Business Appointment

lemons - picture by Procsilas Moscas via FlickrOMG, I missed that appointment!

Have you ever missed an important business appointment?

I missed one this morning and was both embarrassed and annoyed with myself for doing so.

Ironically, although I had the appointment date and time correctly listed in my Google calendar, I’d been using a separate backup/reminder system and that had a different date – two weeks hence!

I’ve apologised and although the potential interviewee has not taken up my offer of a reschedule, he has been quite polite about it all and sent me some helpful information.

Mind you, one of my strengths in business is a sense of responsibility, so it’s quite possible that my annoyance with myself is greater than it needs to be.

But I’m still cranky with myself.

Making the best of it

So on the old principle that when life gives you lemons you make lemonade, I drew up the following five things I have learned or had reinforced from the experience.

1. As soon as you realize you have missed the appointment, apologize

Procrastinating on the apology is not going to make matters better and will probably make them worse. Whether you apologize in person, by phone or by email will depend on the circumstances. In the instance today I apologized by return email as soon as the person emailed me about the missed appointment.

In hindsight, I suspect I would have been better picking up the phone and letting him hear how genuinely sorry and embarrassed I was, and with my being willing to handle his response maturely, without the unintended but relatively impersonal shielding of emotion via an email.

2. No excuses – take responsibility for the mistake

If you miss an appointment, take full responsibility. Don’t blame a staff member, one of your family, having to take a dog or cat to the vet, traffic. If there was a real, insurmountable problem, such as a plane being diverted to another city because of storms, get through to the person as soon as you can and let them know. But don’t embellish.

One executive I knew told me that once, after he had missed an appointment with a more senior person, he got his secretary to write and give the impression that he had been out of town, although he hadn’t. The more senior person was not impressed and told him he should not have tried to hide behind his staff member.

3. Offer an alternative and a sweetener

I’m an optimist so my assumption is that people will be understanding and be willing to make a new time for the scheduled appointment. I go on the front foot with this and offer an alternative time, ideally with my doing something extra: for example, if we were to have met in a cafe in the city, I might offer to meet now in the person’s office. Or I might offer to buy them lunch and have the meeting that way.

In the right circumstances and depending on the people and the relationship, sending flowers or chocolates or a vintage wine, or tickets to a sporting event might be worthwhile. In some circumstances that would be over the top and not appropriate.

Sometimes you’ll decide that none of that is going to make much difference, so you just have to suck it up and move on.

4. Review your appointment calendaring system

No matter how state of the art your calendaring/appointment system is, things can go wrong. I would have expected a reminder this morning on my smartphone, 15 minutes before the scheduled time. As far as I know that didn’t happen. So make sure your system is set up so as to give you alerts at appropriate times before your appointments.

5. Check and re-check

Something I started to do, but judging by from today’s events not done assiduously enough, is to review my appointment schedule regularly – i.e. weekly and daily.

Here is the pattern I intend to follow from now on:
(a) Sunday evening before the evening meal check all appointments for the week and make sure there are no conflicts
b) Each weekday evening, before winding up for the day, check all appointments for the following day
c) Each morning, before beginning work, check all my appointments for the day and make sure I am programmed to be the right places at the right time.

Also, and especially if the appointment has been made some time previously, it is a good idea to phone or email the person with something along the lines of “Just checking. Are we still on today for that appointment at (time), at (place/ Skype/ …)?” I’ve never known anyone to take exception to that.

What other steps might you take to ensure you keep your appointments?


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