24 March 2012

On Response Rates

We have a multitude of ways to communicate with each other: phone, fax, email, social media, instant messaging.  I'm sure if I looked, I could probably even find a telegram service (legit, not stripper).  All this technology, all these ways of contacting the right person to get your issue addressed, and what do these people do? 

Ignore everything.

Phone calls are handled by people who take messages or, more often, by electronic message boxes.  In either case, your message will likely be ignored.  Email goes unread.  E-messages and social media posts go unanswered.  Faxes get shredded or filed, no response.  We have all these communications methods and, when it comes to reaching the person you need to contact, you might as well be standing on the roof shouting for all the good it does.  And the more "important" the person, the less likely you are to hear from them. 

And if you do hear from their assistant, you frequently get the worse-than-silence response: a promise that your issue will be reviewed and you will be contacted.  In other words, stop trying to reach us; we've already trashed your communications.  Then there's the ever-popular out-of-the-office message: "I am out of the office and will be returning on XXX.  If this is urgent, please contact..."  Well, if it’s not urgent, you leave your message and expect that person will get back to you when they ARE in the office.  Apparently, that is not the case.  It seems that out-of-the-office is now an excuse to dump every message that came in during that time, as if they never occurred.

And then, there's my own private hellish torture: the people who contacted ME, and asked/offered something, who then disappear, leaving me clicking refresh on my email every 10 minutes for the next month.

Common courtesy in communications has gone the same way as politeness on the internet: down the sewer of self-importance.  One would think it would be easier to actually speak to the individual than to continue finding new ways of avoiding them. 

So I want to ask, appeal, implore, BEG you to change your methods.  If you don’t now and never will communicate with those who are trying to reach you, then at least be honest about it.  Take your contact info off your websites.  Set your outgoing message to something like "Don't bother; I'm not going to respond." 

And, above all, don't call people; make promises, and then bail.  That is the worst form of rudeness there is.

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