Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hold the phone (call)

The more we're connected, the odder communication can be at times. Pointless calls, devices not being used for their intended use, etc. Sometimes I have to sit back and ask myself, "What was the point of that call?"

One such example was a customer that called my office the other day. She called and said that she saw that someone at my office had called and left a message, and she was calling to see what the call was for. In fact, my boss did call her and leave a message. This message stated that the material her poster was to be printed on had in fact come in and that we would print it that day and call her when it was completed. This seemed pretty straight forward to me, so I asked what my boss had told her on the message, as to confirm if there was anything new to tell her. That is when she told me that she didn't listen to it yet. So I ended up telling her exactly what the message said. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence. Surprisingly often, I will call customers to let them know that their orders are ready for pick up. Half the time I don't get an answer, so I leave them a message. Then, about ten minutes later they call back stating that someone had called from the shop's number, and wanting to know who called. Again, they didn't listen to the message first. I ask, is it really so hard to check your messages before calling back every call you've missed? The purpose of those messages is to leave a recording of the nature of the call or request a call back. By listening to those messages you can determine which calls were important and which calls warranted a call back. Specifically, with the call from the first customer, she was wasting time. They needed their order right away, yet she wasted time by calling for the same information that was left on her message. I was actually working on her order when she called. By calling, I had to stop working on her project part-way through. Doing so means that the project will take longer to complete, but it also means that there is the risk that it will get ruined while I am away from it. So the end result is wasted time, a wasted call and possibly wasted material.

Another type of pointless call is the call reply to an email, where another email would have made more sense. At my job, I send clients design proofs via email. Sometimes customers have more complex feedback that is hard for them to explain in an email. These calls are fine and understandable. The ones that make no sense are the easy ones. Design proofs will sometimes contain just one option, or sometime an A, B, and C option. If any of these look good as-is, it would make sense to reply that it "Looks good" if there was only one choice, or "Let's go with option B" if there were more than one. Yet there are people that will get the email, make their selection and then call to tell me it looks good or to select the option they would like to go with. Doing this wastes time... both mine and theirs. Now, if I am at my desk it won't waste much time, but it will wast some. But there are times where I am working on another project or in another room on the other side of the shop when I hear the phone ring. As before, I need to drop what I'm doing, hope that project doesn't get messed up,  and run to the phone to answer the call. Then if I get to the phone only to find that they are approving a proof, it can obviously be a bit annoying. I had to drop what I was doing and run to the hone for something that would have been better handled by an email. Furthermore, an email would be better for them. By sending an email, there is a written record of what they would like. There have been times where a customer would call, speak to someone else, and they would mistakenly wright down the incorrect proof for approval. We would print the project and the customer would show up to find the wrong layout has been printed for their project. This obviously leaves they understandably upset. But by sending an email, the chances for things to go wrong would be reduced.

But sometimes email prompts pointless calls as well. I have a client that likes to call me about new projects and to tell me that he is about to send an email for what he is needing to order. This is another waste of time. 1) When the email comes, I will see it in my inbox. No need to call and tell me you are about to send one. 2) The information he tells me over the phone is also included in the email. So I'm going over the same information twice. When the info is in an email, there's also less chance of missing something. So there's no need to call to tell me what will be in the email. 3) When he calls, I have to stop what I'm doing to take the call. This means that I have to stop working on a project to talk to him. There have actually been cases where I have been working on a job for him that he had a rush on, only for him to call about something else and cause me to take longer on the time sensitive job. Had an email been sent without a call, I could instead skim it quickly and save it for later once I saw it didn't pertain to the current project. Another similar pointless call type is the call to tell us that they sent an email or make sure we got their email. If you are replying to an email we sent you, and you don't get an error back, we will get it. This may be surprising, but if you don't get an instant reply it's probably because you aren't the only customer or job we are working on right at that moment...

Another thing I don't understand is those that have a mobile phone for emergencies but hardly have it with them or on. I know people who only have one just in case of an emergency. Wet they only ever have it on when they leave the house. What if you're outside and fall and break your leg? This person may be in trouble because when they are home, the phone sits on a table inside and is off. There are also those that have their phone on all the time, but don't keep it with them when they are home. They don't have a home phone, but do have their mobile. Yet I'll see them sit in one room, while the phone sits in the other room and is ignored while it rings. This is their only line of communication outside of email, yet it is ignored  half the time. Wouldn't it make more sense to keep it in the same room with you and at least look to see who is calling or messaging you to see if it might be important? Obviously you could still ignore the call if it didn't look important, but what if you did simply ignore an important call because you ignored the ringer from the other room?

Obviously, there are many more observations we could make about phone calls and communication, but I think we cal all agree where we have answered calls before and asked ourselves at the end, "What was the point of that call?" I know I have had to ask that question far too often.

-BH

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