Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Don't Call Us

I have just about had it with the silly reindeer games some businesses like to play when they don’t want to be bothered.
Like making appointments and breaking them.
Like setting up conference calls, and then not showing up on the line.
Or like not returning phone calls.
That one really chaps my hide like nothing else.

Have we created a generation of business men and women who are so spineless and morally bereft that they cannot pick up the phone and return a call?

Same thing with e-mails that go unanswered.
How hard is it to toggle the “reply” button, and answer with either a “yes” or a “no?” I’d even settle for a “maybe,” than just no response at all.

If I engage you in a conversation, and the result of that discussion is a choice you need to make--of either accepting my offer, declining my idea, or delaying until later the proper application of the proposal--how freaking hard is it to say so?

How did we get to the point that we’re no longer able to speak to one another in binary terms of yes or no? Do we think we’re doing some struggling account executive a FAVOR by putting off making a decision?
"Yes," "no," or "not now."
How hard is that?

Are you afraid you’re going to bruise my self esteem by telling me, “No?” And Heaven forbid you say, “yes,” and have to get up from your office chair and DO SOMETHING in response to an offer. Grow some gonads and make like a Nike commercial, and just Do It.

Yes or No.

Choosing to not decide is to decide anyway.
I chalk it up as a “don’t bother with this schmuck” in my playbook.

I personally despise voice mail systems and unattended phone systems. To me, nothing says “your business doesn’t really matter” more than to dial up a company's main number and be greeted by someone apparently reading from hand-scribbled notes:

“You have reached the offices of Apathy, Inc.
We don’t care if you’re calling or not.
We’d rather hide in our cocoon behind this computer screen, and weed out the voice messages we want to return.
You don’t really matter.
Why don’t you just go away…”

It makes me want to scream.
I have been calling on several businesses for the past few weeks, and you would not believe what I’ve been faced with.

"Hold on, he’ll be right with you."
Click: Click: “Please leave your name and number…”

I am quite diligent in leaving my name and number in a pleasing, un-intimidating way. After all, how many times do you get a real Radio person calling you at work?
Do you think people want to call back?

I once worked for a guy who was so incredibly arrogant, this was his voice-mail message: "Thanks for calling, your call is very important, but please do not leave a message; I don't check them."

At least the turkey was honest.

I called a business today, and decided to make a hobby out of it. I dailed the main number, which was answered by the most anemic-sounding voice message ever recorded in the history of Mankind. I punched the first extension the voice gave me.
Straight to voice mail.

I hung up, and dialed back in.
This time, the electronic bimbo began her rambling chant, and at the appropriate time, I dialed the second extension number she spewed.
Straight to voice mail.
Does no one work at this place?

Third time through, I let the mechanical Mensa run through her script until she came to the extension for Accounts Receiveable. Here, I suspected, where the money is actually coming into the door, there should be a body with a pulse and respiration.

Answered on the first ring.

I gently explained how I had been trying to reach the president of the company, who had encouraged me to call. He was expecting to hear from Me. And yet, with each day that passed, my call notes for this prospect began to look like the rap sheet for OJ Simpson instead of a prospect call sheet.

I told her that today I’d been trying to reach any living person, real or imagined, that worked at her company, and had been constantly routed through that special, electronic Hell that is reserved for the Devil and his Angels who artfully dodge all incoming phone calls.

She nervously giggled, “you have?”
Yes, I have, I responded, and asked to be put on the line with the President.
“Hold on,” she promised, “and I’ll get him for you.”

There is no music quite like that melody that reverberates in your head while you’re on hold. It’s mind-numbing, defies musicological rationale, and I believe is mathematically calculated to induce short-term amnesia, so that the caller is lulled into a sense of false security, knowing their call is The Most Important Blinking Light on the phone system at that place and time.

Ring...click: "I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now. Please leave your name and number. Your call is important, and I will return it right away…”
Back to square one.

I may call this business again sometime, but not for a while. They indict people in this County for the things I’d like to do and say to these chickens.
Besides, I don’t believe I want them to be included in the company of those who do get it, who understand what I have to offer, and who are interested in bettering their operation.
Frankly, I don’t think they deserve it.

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