Archive for the ‘Telecommunications’ Category
When it comes to communications, I can’t think of any habit that serves us better than trying to picture ourselves in the shoes of the person we’re trying to reach. Usually, we talk about communications aimed at masses or at least groups of stakeholders, but we also need to pay more attention to our day-to-day personal communications. Either way, thinking about the other person’s own “ecosystem” can make a big difference in how you communicate. So let’s focus on how telecommunications technology has changed the rules for something as simple as making a phone call.
A lot of us — especially whose who are over 45 — formed our telephone habits in another day and age. One that didn’t include cell phones, Caller ID, texting and call forwarding. When we called somebody who was on the phone, we got a busy signal. If they were away, chances are we just heard it ringing, as answering devices were still primitive and less than ubiquitous.
So we tried again later. Somebody was in the shower. Or in a meeting. Or gone fishing.
That was a perfectly functional and necessary thing to do in 1975. Now? Not so much. Yet, some of us revert to those old habits, to the great annoyance of our younger friends and associates.
Let’s assume you started with the person’s landline. That’s usually the best place to start, and the one I prefer when somebody’s calling me. But if there’s no answer, no worries. I’ll try his cell. But here’s the problem: When I’m out of the office for more than a few minutes, I always forward my calls to my cell. So let’s say I’m in a meeting, or maybe driving. You call my office and my phone rings. You dial it a second time and it rings again. You’ve now disturbed my meeting twice. Even if my phone is on silent, the vibrating is a distraction. So you leave a voice mail.
Know what happens when I get a voice message? I have to dial a phone number. OK, on most phones you can just press and hold the “1″ button, but it’s still a pain. Then I listen to the mechanical voice telling me how many new messages I have, how many archived messages there are, and what I need to push to get your message. Finally, I listen to a rambling message that’s barely decipherable, especially if I’m in a noisy environment. A few more keystrokes to delete the message, then a quick search for the back of an envelope for me to write it down.
Can you blame me — or your friends, co-workers or clients — for preferring a text or email? I can read that in a second or two, and like everybody else, I get it all on my phone anyway. Often, even that isn’t necessary. My phone tells me you called, and it seems safe to assume you wouldn’t do that if you didn’t want to talk to me. Here’s a good way to be sure: For people you talk with regularly, just ask. Most will tell you that no voice mail means “Give me a call.” I have a service that turns your message into a text anyway, but it doesn’t work so well if you mumble.
A side point: I notice a lot more “This mailbox is full” messages at the end of somebody’s outgoing message. The younger somebody is, the more likely it is to encounter this. Lots of folks have simply bailed and no longer even pretend to listen to it! (I’ve never seen any stats on this, but I’d sure like to.)
Sometimes voicemail is unavoidable. If I need to convey something simple and important and I’m driving, I’ll leave one. But if I’m at a computer, or if it’s safe for me to text, I’ll shoot you a text or email.
Yes, I revert to old habits like other folks my age. I’ll call back later. Or hang up and try the cell. But I’m getting better. And in today’s world, you should too.
You see two numbers side by side on your screen. One is a “real” phone number, with an area code you recognize. The other starts with 800 or 866. Which would you rather call? Which would you be more likely to put in your contact list?
I never use a toll free number, and I have a theory that a lot of other folks feel the same. It’s been years since I paid by the minute for a long distance call. (When’s the last time you heard somebody say, “He’s on long distance”?) So I figure when I use the toll-free number, I’m just subsidizing an outdated service that nobody needs any more.
But there’s a little more to my logic:
- A toll free number is really just an alias that hides the “real” number. I don’t know if I’m calling a local business in Shreveport or a call center in Singapore.
- The toll free number will almost certainly connect me with a switchboard (or recording), which will entail extra steps to get the person I need. A “real” number may still take me to the switchboard, but there’s always hope that it’ll get me straight to the right person.
- It seems inflationary to me. If we’re all paying (even a little bit) for 800 numbers we don’t need, we have a needless cost.
I’m aware that I could just be overthinking this because, as a former telephone company guy, I understand the situation better than some. But if I’m right, it could be that — at the very least — businesses might think twice before putting in additional toll-free lines. Still, I’m curious as to what you think.
Not all the NewMediaRules address mass media. In fact, new rules of economy, good judgment, simple courtesy or plain coolness have evolved regarding the way you use your phone.
Here six of them:
1. Lose the dedicated fax line unless you’re in a business where faxing signatures is a daily requirement. Otherwise, there’s absolutely no reason to tie up a $60-a-month business line for a dedicated fax. If you can’t go cold turkey, at least switch to one of the online fax services, which you can get for about $10 a month. But don’t tell anybody you have a fax number, or you’ll be branded as hopelessly out of touch.
2. At least consider dropping your toll-free number. Why? Because nobody pays toll any more. Practically everybody you’re likely to hear from has unlimited long-distance calling. In fact, about the only toll being paid is that for toll-free numbers. Because you typically pay for each call that comes in over the line, you’re incurring a cost that doesn’t provide any benefit. So why do I say “consider”? Simply because you may have spent so much time and money getting and communicating a toll-free number that it would hurt your business to change it.
3. Never, never, never allow anyone in your office to say “so-and-so is on long distance.” That meant something 30 years ago when you were paying a quarter a minute to talk long distance. Now, it just means you’re clueless.
4. Don’t come off like a stalker by calling somebody’s cell number six times in a row. If the person didn’t answer, he or she still knows you called. (Corollary: Don’t call one number, then hang up and call the other. This is incredibly annoying to the person who’s already on a conversation and has to listen to you attempting to horn in twice in five minutes.)
5. Poll your associates about their preferences for voice mail. Younger folks, as you would expect, prefer that you send a text or email with a message, rather than forcing them to call and listen to your muffled message while they’re riding the noisy tram at an airport. On the other hand, an older associate might not have a phone package that includes texting, so you’d be costing that person money by sending a text. (If he or she has a smart phone, on the other hand, an email will work just as well without incurring an SMS charge.)
6. Make yourself easy to reach by giving people one number to reach you. Either keep your desk phone forwarded to your cell when you’re away, or use a service that allows calls to ring your desk and cell at the same time.