Please Leave A Message and I’ll Get Right Back to You

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Here’s the problem: you want to reach me.  In the “good old days”, it was simple enough.  You sent me a letter, came to my office or called.  I responded as soon as I could, and your expectations were set based on reasonable response times.  Then came email.  Since it was faster and easier, you might have sent me an email.  I didn’t get too many emails, since ‘junk mail’ referred to paper circulars and solicitations, so it was easy for me to notice your email and respond quickly.  Email set new expectations on being instantly responsive, but it was still straightforward.  If you emailed me, I emailed you my response. If you called, I called you back.  That was it.

Then along came smart phones, text messaging, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, company social networks and of course my personal cell, office and home phones, my personal and office emails, and my multiple voice mailboxes.

Now it’s not so simple to reach me.  You need to know many more contact addresses and numbers.  You need to know which of these places I’m checking today and when I’m likely to check them.  If you want me to respond quickly, you need to call special attention to your message so I know it’s urgent.  And you need to hope that I’m checking the place where you left a message and that I find it.

I’d prefer to know where you are leaving your message so I know which place to check.  Of course, I’ll respond quickly, but it may not be quick enough since I do have other things going on besides checking all these places for messages.  So you may need to leave me a second message, maybe on a different medium.  So goes our attempt to have a dialogue using electronic media.

Today our ‘contact list’ includes several ways to reach everyone.  Our efforts to be always connected have an unintended consequence of also making it significantly more difficult to communicate.  It’s more time consuming since we may have to check multiple ‘places’ to reach each other.   It’s more complex since we may leave multiple messages on different media just to make sure we connect.  And it’s more difficult to respond, since once we get a message, we have to figure out how to respond, starting the cycle all over again. All of this is on top of the new expectations that once we leave a message, we will hear back quickly.

So you see the dilemma.  You not only need my contact information, but you need to know which is my preferred medium at the time you want to reach me.  Then you have to keep it updated so you are not sending messages into a black hole where I used to be.  And of course, you may be expecting me to get back to you as soon as I can, and you are wondering if I didn’t get back to you yet because you didn’t use the right channel, you have the wrong contact information, or maybe I’m just plain busy.

How silly is this? It’s really hard to be instantly responsive.  There must be a better way for us to find each other these days.  There must be a better way to harness the power of multiple channels, multiple media and multiple places to leave messages.  Today’s way of communicating is just to complicated and it’s getting in the way. How do you handle this?  I’d really like to know.

And don’t worry, I’ll be back in touch as soon as I can.  Thanks for leaving me a message.  What’s the best way to reach you?


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5 Responses to “Please Leave A Message and I’ll Get Right Back to You”

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Which begs the larger question of what is it about any particular message that requires an instant response? Are we imposing our selfish expectations on all of our contacts by presuming, either implicitly or explicitly, that our question demands their immediate consideration

Keri, You’ve brought my Web inflow to the level where I no longer need to buy mag’s to read for fun. Except for Vanity Fair, of course.

I recommend lower expectations all around. Just accept that we are all doing the best we can.


And on top of that, two very distinct channels — voice mail and text — are reached via the same “address” — the phone number! Can’t we fix that? There is currently no way for me to tell someone that I “don’t text” or that I “only text.” And I can’t tell you that “I’m disconnected from the Internet but have a phone signal” or “I have no phone service but I’m on the Internet.” I think the solution to all this is SECRETARIES who do nothing but mediate communications! Do you remember that Apple video about technology of the future that had the little male secretary robot that handled all messages? That’s what I want. Except, oops, it has to work when I’m disconnected from the Internet…

[…] trying to figure out the new “netiquette” when communicating with people.  Back in my June blog, I vented my frustration about how many communication channels we now have and how difficult it was […]

Looking forward to reading more. Great article.Truly thank you!

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