10 Comm No-Nos Part 2

by Dave Michels

Dr. Evil said it best with “I’m surrounded by frickin’ morons.”
Here is my top 10 list of telecom no-nos. Don’t do these things, they are simply unacceptable. Why? Well, for lots of reasons including common sense, common courtesy, technological progress, and because they annoy the hell out of me. 
It is time to end stupidity, and demand more from our own company, partners, and suppliers.

5. IM Abuse

Instant messaging is a great tool – fills the gap between voice calls and email. IM is more immediate than email, but not as intrusive as voice. In fact, one of the great things about IM is a near requirement, ok expectation, ok tolerance of, doing other things while chatting.

Truly, I am a big fan of IM, because it’s so simple, immediate, and non committal, but I have little tolerance for people that have nothing to say yet still feel obligated to IM. You have to realize that IMs are interrupts – that is they interrupt the task at hand. Again, that’s ok in the name of constructive conversation. If it was unacceptable, one can always hide or turn off the IM client. I don’t do that because I am open to constructive conversations.

You know those captcha’s that help sort the real submissions from the bots? There needs to be something like that for IM that filters out Idle Musings from the Instant Messages. Now I need to very clear here, there is nothing wrong with pointless conversations. The vast majority of my conversations (and IMs) are pointless, but enjoyable. I am talking about the Hellos that are not followed by a conversation. At least a good Ring and Run requires some creativity and skill. If you are going to cause an interrupt, at least have the decency to have a complete thought or purpose.

4. Send Me an Email

The common complaint about email is it isn’t personal enough. That’s why we aren’t supposed to use email for certain types of messages – like breakups, or pink slips. We are supposed to be compassionate and reach out personally.

Being the compassionate person that I am, I sometimes reach out with non personal communications. Sure, an email is easy and effortless, but sometimes (because I care) I go the extra distance. For example, I might walk over to a cube or call someone to personally conduct my communications – in person. I’ve even been known to do this at great personal inconvenience, such as walking up a flight of stairs.
Usually, this personal touch is appreciated. It gives us a chance to catch-up on things we don’t really care about like vacations or new shoes. But then, the conversation ends and it’s time to get back to business. A success until I hear the “ok, send me an email so I don’t forget.”

What? Sending an email is trivial. I could have done that to begin with. Instead I made a personal effort to walk over and meet face to face and my reward is to go back to my desk and send you an email? I understand most requests come via email, and perhaps a process has been created around that. My personal effort (because I care) may have actually disrupted said process, but that’s your  problem. Send yourself an email if that’s what you require. 

3. Voice Mail Messages that say Call Me

Voice Mail is an incredible technology. Hard to believe we used to use those pink “While You Were Out” slips. I was never a fan of those slips, because my messages never were appropriate for third parties. Tech jargon doesn’t do well with non technical types as they never know if it’s an acronym or a word they don’t know. “Tell John, the UC appl is being blocked by the SBC on the Acme”. John gets some message like “Did you see on CBS a special on apples and pimples.” 

Inevitably, it is easier to say “Tell John to call me”. But voice mail fixes those problems. Yes, I know email is better, but not always. Certainly not while driving. The idea of all these comm tools we now have (sms, vmail, email, im, etc.) are to use the right tool for the given situation. But unfortunately, using the right tool is only half the battle – using the tool correctly is the other.
Don’t leave voice mail messages that only say “Call Me”. Explain your case, explain your purpose. Ask the question. Why? Because when I do Call You – there is a good chance I will get your voice mail – and instead of completing a communication with an answer to your question, now I am forced to say “Call Me”. Basically, the idiotic “Call Me” messages, forces the return message to be idiotic too. A total waste of communications and communications technology.

2. Reply All Abuse

Along the lines of not knowing how to use the technology, there should be some kind of license or permit you get in order for the Reply All feature to be enabled in an email client. There should be a social stat on FB or Twitter that indicates how many times a person hits this button.

Basically, don’t do it. Unless you are absolutely certain that everyone on that list really needs to be included. Reply All can be a short cut, for example, press Reply All and then delete some addresses; that’s ok. I think some people feel there are only two ways to reply to an email – Reply or Reply All. But there are other options, and really the Reply All shouldn’t be an option at all without a license.

1. Cell Phone Voice Mail Systems

No one should be using their cell phone provider’s voice mail feature for business. It’s that simple. Cell phone voice mail is for consumers not professionals. Professionals don’t have time. Cell phone voice mail is too slow – it speaks very slowly, it offers ridiculous options (to page the person…), and it’s generally painful for both caller and cell phone box owner. The reason why cell phone vmail is so slow because they want you to use more minutes. The cell carriers make a mint (in minutes) on vmail – even the free calls (within a provider) are only cell to cell, not cell to ground vmail. They get people leaving messages and they get you when you call back to retrieve the messages. It’s packaged as a free service, but it’s not – they charge minutes. You can learn more about this www.takebackthebeep.com.

There are ways to speed up your cell phone voice mail, but I say get rid of it. Use a service with unified messaging features. You can direct your unanswered cell phone calls to any number, there is no requirement you use the provider’s free service. At my office, I had it forward to my second line (this requires 2 DIDs), or you can forward it to Google Voice which offers a free voice mail only service.
Direct it someplace that is efficient. No long delays between words and phrases. “Hi, Leave a message” Beep. Down to business – it is bad enough I went to voice mail, but a common enough situation – get me to the beep and ideally get my message (SMS, Email, etc.) quickly so you can respond. Because Google Voice has transcription, I can respond to a Google Voice vmail very quickly with email in places where I can’t make/receive calls like a conference session.