Communication Chaos

Communication Chaos

Imagine that you are phoning your friend, “Angie”… It rings 6 times and then diverts to voicemail. Irked, you leave a pleasant message: “Hey Angie… it’s me… call me. Miss you. Mwah.”

You then immediately check on WhatsApp to see when they’ve been online last. Right? And if they are online, then you get upset. Why’d they not answer? Despite being upset, you type an amiable message: “Hellloooo… <3 Need to chat – please call me,” or “What’s wrong, you’re not answering your phone (duh!) … need to chat”.

Angie immediately reads your message and you thus EXPECT to wait (at most) 30 seconds for a call back. Angie doesn’t call back within the next 2 minutes – nor does she respond to your message - and you’re thinking that maybe your friendship is over.

Meanwhile, Angie overslept, jumped into the shower, rushed her morning routine to get ready and by the time she got to the phone she had 7 missed calls, 47 WhatsApp’s, 4 SMS’s and 86 social media notifications.

With her cell in one hand, she tried to establish a response strategy while feeding her face with the other hand.

She checks the missed calls to make sure there’s no family emergency. Fortunately, this is not the case… but her boss called 3 times, you called once and the rest are unknown numbers. She flips to the SMS’s and there are notifications to say she has voicemails. She chooses to ignore the WhatsApp’s for now, because she knows that half of those must be jokes, as usual. She dials voicemail…. you phoned. She makess a mental note to call you back. Next.

Oops, boss sounds upset! Upgrade priority to search for messages from boss. She opens WhatsApp and looks for her boss’s messages, clicking on a few notifications in between – such as your message, which she already knows about. Ah, here it is… boss’s stuff.

Angie’s on the Gautrain by now and typing out a detailed factual response via email on her laptop, after letting her boss know via WhatsApp that her email will be inbound in 10 minutes. And… she apologises for being late to work.

Finally having sent the important email, Angie tries to catch up with all of her notifications, while also taking a call from an unknown number and spending 3 minutes convincing a tele-marketer that she’s very happy with her current life cover plan and content with the services offered by her broker.

After eventually settling into her workspace at the office, she returns your call - 2 hours later! You both spend the first 5 rocky minutes of the conversation enlightening each other on your negative experiences of the missed communications, before discussing the matter originally intended. You are thus solving an issue that wasn’t really an issue, before discussing the matter at hand.

If you were born in the 60s or 70s, you’ll remember:

- the days of having a single landline in your house. No voicemail. No call forwarding.

- no Internet. No Google. No email. No online banking. No GPS. No streaming.

- no Personal Computers or smart phones. No disks storing pictures, music, videos or projects. No PC games. No social media.

Amazing, right? 

I live and work with technology (and love it), but still hold some traditional views on communication – as I’m sure many readers do. So, here are a few things that I’d like to clarify:

No. I will not call you back.

SMS’s were great for a while and I think South Africa cell providers have a great feature where you can send someone a “Please call me” SMS. This is useful for children and parents, or day labourers/casual workers and their temporary employers. For the most part, though - no. I will not call you back. You are looking for me and if I don’t know who you are, I’m definitely not calling you.

If I want to buy something, I’ll go looking for it.

If you phone me trying to sell something, I’m happy to take the call and listen to your value proposition. However, if I tell you that I’m not buying or our company has no need for your services, stop calling me! After the second call, I’ll block the number.

Also, don’t queue automated pre-recorded messages to play once I answer. I do not get past the first sentence… and I’ll block the number!

Spam SMS’s are not targeted to a specific demographic – so they’re just as bad and generate zero response from me or anyone I’ve asked.

Stop pushing people to your preferred platform.

One of my favourite features that Facebook launched is their Marketplace. It also gave purpose to the Facebook messenger app. But I fail to understand why people, after contact on this app, ask, “Please WhatsApp me.” I’m already contacting you via an electronic messaging platform. It’s also the same platform that you used to put your goods up for sale. People will sometimes no longer engage on the messenger after asking you to WhatsApp.

What’s that about? 

You do not have to be on WhatsApp. And don’t assume everyone is on every platform.

I know many people have dropped WhatsApp since their last terms and conditions update, which is ok, but don’t assume that all your contacts are now also on your new preferred platform. I recently logged into MS Teams and guess what I found? Yup, another chat platform, with plenty unread messages aimed at me. #@$%^&!

You don’t have to read all your emails! Right? 

I know I don’t. Actually, a colleague recently caught a view of my inbox with the unread message count. He said that it would drive him insane to have so many unopened items. He asked me to right click on the inbox and select “read all”!

If it’s not addressed to me or the subject matter is currently of no interest or importance, I ignore it. I even have a filter set up that pushes all emails sent from people outside my contact list into a “Greybox” folder. I’ll review that folder about once a week. I also have a Gmail account that I use mostly to setup personal social media accounts. I hardly check that. Maybe once every 2 months, unless I’m waiting for something specific.

Tip: emails have a search function. If someone calls you and asks if you received their email, you can search it while chatting to them. ;-)

In general, try old school ways to communicate.

The point I’m trying to make is that we have so many channels through which we can communicate these days, why do them all? Not everyone is on every platform and not everyone has the time to just be a Communications Gateway.

Take the time to think about someone else’s experience of your communication efforts. Angie has her own life and priorities.

Pull the handbrake up and realise that while different methods of communication can add value in different ways, it is better to call if the topic is really urgent. Video call, cell call, whatever the platform: a direct communication channel is always going to top any queue. Also, don’t try and proxy information. Put people in touch with people directly – not everything has to go through you… unless you’re the designated Communications Gateway Person! :-\  

Emile Biagio



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