Thursday, September 23, 2010

Voice Mail - Part 1

We all use it, of course. And depending on how we use it, we either like it or hate it. We like it if it defends us from the overwhelming onslaught of uninvited intruders into our space…or from Aunt Thelma.

However, we hate it when someone we want or need to speak with uses it on us. I’ve never had much problem with anyone using voice mail to protect their quiet enjoyment of a home life. But for over 20-years it seems that more and more businesses use it to tamp down the ugly onslaught of those pesky customers.

If you’ve worked in a busy business environment, you know what I’m talking about…phone interruptions every 30-seconds which make it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything for more than…well, 30-seconds. You could take it off the hook, or instruct your secretary to hold all calls, or pick up your work and take it to the conference room, leaving instructions that you are not to be disturbed there.

About 20-years ago business managers began to embrace the notion of putting a voice mail box on every phone in the place. That way, they reasoned, they could do with less receptionist and clerical labor to answer phones—a cost savings opportunity…music to any manager’s ears. Of course now the boxes are simply features programmed into all office phone systems.

Not surprisingly, the law of unintended consequences set in when the notion of organizing and instructing their work force in the proper ways to use the voice mail system was overlooked by those same managers. The result was that every member of a work force simply turned their voice mails on and stopped answering their phones. Now, and for the past 15-years or so, when you call someone in a business environment, you expect to get a voice mail recording telling you to leave a detailed message. Very frustrating, but of course the recording often gives you an emergency number or extension you can dial to handle something of an important nature. It’s usually a clerk or secretary…and what happens when you call that number…yep, another voice mail telling you to….

So the result is that you simply suffer yet another degradation of simple person to person communication which once was reasonably effective. In my pre-retirement work I had the advantage of knowing how communications once worked before introduction of our new hi-tech communications technologies. In those ancient days we still had to deal with a range of personalities where the highly competent had to make do with the lesser varieties. We learned how to deal with that range of personalities. With a recording it is essentially impossible to accurately make that kind of judgment, so I consider all of them of the lesser sort.

Within a short period of time I determined that by not answering the phone, the person you were trying to reach was effectively putting your communication at their convenience. They would call you back…maybe. And the implication was that you should standby your phone and wait for them. Bullshit, we said and either turned on our own voicemail and played voice mail tag or just shut off the phone. Of course cell phones have made the standby issue less problematic except when the bastard returns your call when it is inconvenient for you…which is nearly always.

I suppose texting solves some of that inconvenience issue, but I’m retired now and have no spirit for farting around with texting. The buttons are too small for me to readily see…the screens too…and my thumbs are too big.

Besides, these aren’t my kind of people….


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