In the middle of a very busy day last week, I got a phone call from a friend regarding a potential client they had referred me to meet to. Sounding very bewildered she said, “I just got a phone call that you missed your appointment with the customer I referred you to today?” (This is the place where you insert every form of “Oh no! I’m so sorry!”, or “I blew it!” or any of those other responses we use in similar situations. You know what they are.)

“I don’t believe it, you’re right. Can I get in my car right now and still get in to see them?”, I asked her – with desperation in my voice. She’ll call them and then call me right back. As I waited to hear the fate of my appointment, I use the time to berate myself for my HUGE mistake. I was really hard on myself. I let her down and also might have blown a big opportunity with a new client.

Rewinding to the night before. I was out to dinner with my family, and my friend called me on my smartphone, to say that my appointment time for the next day had been changed to an earlier time. I said fine … I can make it at noon instead of 3 o’clock. Then I hung up and went back to the family. Are you seeing the mistakes yet?

Back to the moment of my dilemma. My friend calls me back to say that I can go at my original time of 3 o’clock. Whew! OK! This time I’ll be early – early enough to do my best groveling! After apologizing about a dozen times for my stupidity, she says not to worry. Regardless, I still felt horrible! Over and over she says it was just a mistake and that things happen. We’ve known one another for years, and she knows I’m nowhere near irresponsible. She also explained how she defended my blunder and took the blame. Gotta love having people like that on your side!

Yes, we are all human – but these kinds of mistakes don’t often turn out so well. Have you ever done this with the result that you’ve lost a client before ever meeting them? The old adage is still true — you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Missing the appointment does not bode well for making a good impression.

So, what should I have done better? If you were me, what could you have done to prevent yourself from being in the same awful position?

First, no matter what, write stuff down! Whether you have your calendar with you or not, write it on something. Use a napkin, a receipt, even your hand – anything! And if you have to, write it more than once! If you can put it in your date book or enter it in your smartphone or blackberry, the act of writing it or entering it anywhere, on anything, will document it. It will also create a deeper memory of the experience. Your brain has to process not only the information, but the physical act of logging that thought somewhere outside of your head. The more you commit the information to more areas (locations) of your memory, the better the chance that you won’t forget it.

Second, tell somebody! I should have told my wife and kids what the new time for my appointment was and asked them to remind me to write it down when we get home. Create a chorus of people who can reinforce the new piece of information. Can’t you just imagine us driving home with my kids repeatedly singing a jingle to the beat of their latest pop or rap idle, “dad’s appoint with a new client is at noon not at 3 – oh yea!”. Avail yourself of more memory capacity by having other people help you remember stuff.

Candidly, I’ve heard other people humorously refer to their memory lapses as “sometimers disease”, or “intellectual interludes”, or even call them “brain farts”. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

Lastly, send yourself a voice message, an email or text message. Use the technologies available to us. You may find this a little desperate or over the top, but we’re talking about preserving precious opportunities here! Regardless of our profession, we’re in very competitive businesses, and missed appointments can be deal-breakers. It’s customer service 101.

Think about it – what feels more ridiculous? Sending yourself a text message so you won’t forget something important or getting that phone call that says you missed a really important appointment? Texting yourself may be embarrassing, but missing the appointment is exponentially more embarrassing and expensive! If you can’t use either of the two previous suggestions, protect yourself and use all of your memory aid devices and tools to help you be more efficient.

Though we’re all human and will never be perfect, we must do everything possible to keep ourselves at the top of our game, for the business partners and customers we serve, as well as, for the family we protect and provide for.

Eddie Williams (a West Point graduate, US Army Veteran and former Airborne, Ranger, and Green Beret) is Owner and Managing Partner of E&M Williams Consulting Group LLC, in Atlanta, GA. His firm offers workshops, presentations, and keynote speeches on such topics as personal productivity, stress management, conflict resolution, team building, self-esteem, emotional intelligence and motivation. 

Remembering What Not To Forget!

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