Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
What’s the most effective way to actually connect with a business entity nowadays? Apparently the answer isn’t voice mail. Both Coca-Cola and JPMorgan have abandoned voice mail in segments of their offices. You can read more about their decisions here and here.
Two aspects of the decision surprise me:
- The apparent ardent desire among consumers to see voice mail fade away.
- Workers already had abandoned checking voice mail.
I can’t imagine how there can be one consumer who hasn’t tried a variety of ways to reach a business only to be thwarted by technology. We all, at some time, have one urgent question: How do I reach a human?
If I can have a conversation, I can:
- have an oral exchange about why I’m calling;
- be directed to the best person to help me (I’ve probably already tried the website, thank you very much);
- have a Q&A with that person to resolve the matter;
- settle the issue in the matter of minutes or at least have action steps for the business’s employee or for me.
Sometimes a call is the most efficient and satisfying way to resolve a matter.
As a society, I believe we’ve come to rely too much on arm’s-length ways to connect with each other. If I don’t hear your voice, I’m missing out on an additional way to understand the layers of meaning in your communication. Are you being sarcastic, trying for humor, weeping and wailing? Instead of talking, we resort to emoticons if we think someone might not read our tapped out message with the tone we intended. That’s not the same thing as voice inflections or the exchange of words via a conversation.
I find it distressing that, according to the articles I’ve read on this voice-mail-less approach to doing business, the messages that individuals’ hear in response to calling is that they should “call back” or “try again.” Are you kidding me? At least have the courtesy to tell me that my attempt to reach you via phone is futile. And, by the way, if I’m trying to reach you via phone, we probably already have a relationship (e.g., you have my money, JPMorgan). (Yes, I do recognize that, according to the reports, these businesses aren’t shutting down voice mail that’s “face out”–directed to the public. Yet.)
Jamie Dimon’s belief that his JPMorgan Chase employees are carrying devices in their pockets through which people can reach them is disingenuous to me. We all know we look at our screens to see whom is calling before we answer, and we choose to accept or decline that call. And, ironically, if we decline, that call rolls over into, yup, voice mail.
Which some people choose never to listen to even on their mobile devices. Including our families. Kids ignore parents’ calls regularly. My two teenage grandsons have informed me that I should never leave voice mails for them. Because they never check. Calling is okay, but texting is best. All right, I at least know the rules.
But another family member, who shall remain unidentified, functions in a dysfunctional fashion in his business connections. I needed to reach him once about something rather urgent. So I called his business cell phone. He didn’t pick up. Okay, he’s a busy guy. I left a voice mail.
Multiple hours later, I hadn’t heard back from him. I texted him. No response.
I drove to his office and found, once I arrived, that he claimed he never had received communication from me. He did add, as I stood dumbfounded by his desk, that he never listens to his voice mail. But he had promised me in his voice mail message that he would return my call. All this on a business cell phone. I later learned that others, who call him regularly, know not to bother to leave a message. Waste of time.
I get it. I really do.
We’re all overwhelmed by the various ways people can reach us: office phone and its voice mail, cell phone and its voice mail, email, text, direct messaging on Twitter and Facebook, or even just a tweet or a FB entry that everyone sees. Oh, yeah, and we still have mail and fax machines. (Well, if you’re desperate enough, you might try those two antiquated methods.)
Each of us responds to these many open channels by shutting out certain ones. We ignore any attempts at contacting us through select methods.
Unfortunately, we’ve all drawn the line in different places. No rules exist as to what is appropriate or what is universally viewed as personal space. Which is frustrating enough, but at least let’s be honest about what we’ll respond to and what we don’t even check. And if we pledge to get back to a person through a certain method, then we need to make that a priority, not an empty promise.
I recall attempting to reach a publishing executive about a document I needed signed quickly. I tried email. No response. I tried a phone call. The individual did tell me, as I listened to the message before leaving my voice mail, that I would receive a quicker response if I sent an email. Uh, well, at least I knew not to try calling again.
Finally, out of desperation, I sent an email to his boss. Yeah, I heard back within the half-hour.
Writing is a business. Have you thought through the technological divide between your personal and professional life?
Have you drawn lines about how you’ll respond to readers’ attempts to reach you?
Have you communicated those lines?
Before you try to connect with someone at a publishing house or an agent, do you stop to consider what’s appropriate, or what that person’s preferred method of communication is?
How can we foster better ways to let each other know how to make that long-distance connection?
Should business voice mail die? Click to tweet.
Have you thought through the technological divide between your personal and professional life? Click to tweet.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net