Call reports: the good, the bad and the boring
“Oh, yawn”, I hear you cry! Yes, pretty much, but writing a call report is a necessary tedium Account Managers endure to maintain superstar status. Here’s how to take some of the pain out of writing your next call report.
Other titles for a call report:
- contact report
- meeting report
- to do list for the forgetful
- the “see, we DID agree to it” reminder
Notice how the report shifted from a boring admin task to a useful tool that will - just maybe - one day save your bacon? The pain of writing this type of report lessens if we understand just how useful the report can be.
Why, oh why?
How often have you sat in a meeting, not taking any minutes, then a couple of hours later have already forgotten what you needed to action? How about that meeting where there was back-and-forth debate, but you couldn't remember what the final decision was? Or the meeting where various people needed to action tasks but no one took notes - do you think they will remember what to do?
Call reports help to:
- reduce miscommunication
- track changes and planning for a campaign or project
- settle disputes of what people were asked/not asked to do
- clarify requirements
- eliminate “he-said-she-said” scenarios.
Call reports are also considered (in some countries) to be legal documents and can be called as evidence in court actions!
Not all call reports are created equal
A call report for an agency Account Manager is somewhat different from a salesperson’s call report. A sales call report is usually for internal use only, has a strong CRM focus and is given to a team leader for review and pipeline planning. A cloud-based CRM system (such as Salesforce) is an efficient way to track sales-related calls, emails and meetings. If your Account Management role includes business development, then I suggest you use a purpose-built CRM system for your report records.
An Account Manager’s call report is more of a team and client-focused document. The report gets sent to all who attended your meeting as a record of discussion, decisions made and actions required. I prefer to use the term “meeting report” if the document is to be given to a client. “Call report” and “contact report” are sales-oriented, whereas “meeting report” is far more “client-friendly”.
Agency call reports usually include information such as:
- who attended the meeting
- who didn’t attend that should have been there
- the purpose of the meeting
- what was discussed
- decisions reached
- next steps / points to action after the meeting
- the person responsible for each action point
- date for task completion
- any other relevant information.
Making call reports digestible
A call report is most definitely not a transcript of the meeting. If you want others to actually read your report, then here are some tips on how to make the report digestible:
- Write in bullet-point style and use indentation when required.
- Write with an objective tone, keep to the facts and remove all emotive language.
- Record only the main facts and decisions made - ignore rabbit-trail discussions and chit-chat.
- Include off-topic discussions under an “Other” heading, if the information is useful.
- Avoid the “John said…, then Harry said…” style of writing. Detail to this level can put people off from speaking up in future meetings, if they feel you are recording their every word.
- Keep the word count as low as possible.
- Group similar points together under section headings.
- Record when an “agreement” is reached (this can help mitigate future disputes).
- Outline action points at the end of the report, at end of each section, or highlight them within the body of the report (e.g. make the name of the person responsible in bold and a different colour).
- Proofread the call report carefully, and check the spelling of people’s names.
- Email your call report to your client and participants within 24-48 hours of your meeting.
- Keep a copy of your call reports for easy access by you and your team.
You may feel you need to add in a disclaimer to the end of your call report, such as:
This call/contact/meeting report will be deemed accurate after five business days from [date of report]. Any concerns or corrections are requested in writing.
Are they worth it?
Call reports. Yawn-worthy? Yes. A bacon-saver? Yes. Worth the tedium? Most definitely.
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