black holes :: communication problems

Technology is making us lazy. You know it, just admit it. We have multiple means to communicate, yet many times we do not “hear” each other. Call me guilty too. Yes we receive emails, texts, voice mails, and even those are becoming passé with other forms of communication happening rapidly. However, I’m learning that one thing does not change; we’re still human.

I’ve had a few situations arise where major frustration could have been avoided if the service provider would not have relied solely on technology to communicate. In one situation the service provider insisted they emailed me and left me voice mails multiple times. They did not, or at least I never received either. Nevertheless, the situation was tense enough that a personal call was the only way to resolve our conflict. But it could have PREVENTED the conflict. Let’s say I made that clear when I called them.

I’m trying to learn from this personally since I provide a service and I wouldn’t want my clients to have any frustration towards me because I failed to communicate. Another recent situation arose when one of my consulting engineers did not receive an email from me because the ‘nickname’ in the project/business name was tagged by their spam filter. Weird. Fortunately, I did the right thing; I called them on the phone.

Email is still used by many in business including me, but it can be unreliable. To be honest it’s a black hole. I think there are millions of emails out there lost in the same place with all of those missing socks.

Voice mail is a good way to get a simple message to someone when they’re not available but you still need to communicate something extremely brief. However, I’ve found many play voicemail like kindergarten and think “tag” is something done for fun.

Texting is convenient…(I use it mostly to communicate with my wife so I know to buy some milk), but the acronyms and abbreviations are making us, well…stupid. We will raise a generation of young people who honestly believe that the abbreviations are correctly spelled words. It can be used acceptably, but not as a primary form of communication. I only see it as an acceptable means between people who know each other pretty well and are sharing brief, informal comments.

I will speak on behalf of my profession, but I would like everyone to exhibit the same courtesy and respect. Let’s do it right and let’s uphold the highest standards. Use alternate communication methods with wisdom and discretion. Don’t let convenience take quality service away from your clients. Here are a few simple rules to the person providing the service.

  • After sending an important email, call within 48 hours to confirm the person got it.
  • After leaving a voice mail, call back within 48 hours, don’t wait for them to call back.
  • After sending an email with a file attached, call within 48 hours to see if the person received the file.
  • After mailing an important document or package, call within 48 hours to see if they received it.
  • After receiving a call from someone, return the call within 48 hours and don’t quit until you speak with them.

Sense the theme? Now pick up the phone or meet them in person. We’re human, remember?

photos are from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

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black holes :: communication problems

4 thoughts on “black holes :: communication problems

  1. Nice post Lee. I come upon much of the same situations that you describe as I am sure a lot of us do. The one thing I would also like to mention about the texting and emails is the lack of emotion they have. Myself, and I am sure many others, have read a text or email and taken it the wrong way because you cannot hear the emotion in someones text. Wondering why someone is mad at you when they really weren’t. Kids are growing up thinking this is the proper from of communicating and when they have to actually talk to a person they are not comfortable with it and not sure how to. Thanks for your post.

    1. You make a brilliant point that is critical to this discussion. My article started to mention that but for space I edited that path out of it. All too often I have been puzzled by emails that I have gotten and worried about ones that I have sent. We add emoticons that are a bit childish in order to tell the other person we’re joking. Business emails should not have to rely on such nonsense.

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