How to deal with non-responsive, people and automated phone systems.

Just be courteous and return a phone call or e-mail, you will be appreciated


Something is terribly wrong in our society today, people are just not communicating or responding. It seems people are just in overload and we have to end up in overload ourselves spending most of our day waiting on or chasing people, who just won't respond. For me this even occurs with sales people that we want to buy something from. In this economy it is just inconceivable on the amount of money companies spend on marketing and advertising and not even respond when you contact them.

If you are job seeking the concept of applying and getting a response, any response seems totally out the door. Even customer service departments now hide behind automated phone voice mail and e-mails that seem to go off into some black hole. If you do get a representative you are just in line and not offered a way to contact them directly again if you get cutoff or a promise they made doesn’t materialize.

My belief is that social networking, e-mail and text boxes filled with useless communications, has just overwhelmed people to the point of near total paralysis. You would think with such internet speeds and handheld communication devices that communications should have greatly improved our ability to obtain and respond to people. However, the complete opposite seems to be the case, even in an economy where people desperately need business.

What can we do to improve this problem?

If you are guilty set up your e-mails so you have one directly for business and one for leisure and social networking sites. If social networking sites are a large part of your business networking, still set up your e-mail and smart phone to accept both direct contact e-mails for professional and business and separate contacts for social networking. Always make your business and professional contacts your priority; it is your bread and butter.

Consider having one site like Face Book for your social and another site like Linkedin for just your business. If you are on more than two social sites, consider combining and staying focused on just one for social and one for your professional and business contacts.

Be selective on who gets your direct business e-mail and quickly unsubscribe to unwanted e-mails so you can just focus on the business issues at hand. Face Book just recently changed the e-mail notification system to where you can opt in or out of direct e-mails. This has been an absolute blessing for us at Cottage Craft Works as we don’t have to weed through all the people filling up our inbox wanting to play Farmville with us verses our actual customers. During the evening we can log on and check all or our social networking e-mails.

If you have text messaging freaks on your phone, or if you are one of them, try to select a certain time to spend during the day, to just focus on text messaging, (not when driving) to respond to messages. If you have a person in your work or life that just fills your text box all day, perhaps a radical concept of a face to face or simple phone call each morning to talk through the events of the day might serve both of you much better. If your direct reports just fill your inbox with cc to cya themselves. Sit down with them and discuss office communications, what you would like to have to be more responsive and supportive in case they need your direct help.

If you have two smart phones going at the same time, as I have seen, well you just need some professional help.

If you are on the other end and trying to get people to respond back to you, on your next contact ask if you can invite them to a meeting on their Outlook, or ask if you can call them on a direct line or even a cell phone. Always ask for the name of the person you are talking to, be courteous and appreciative for their time so you will leave a positive impression and ask them if they would mind for you to contact them directly, and if so what is the best day and time of day to do so. Just don’t abuse or share this privileged contact information.

Every contact is about relationships, if you want to send a lasting impression jot down a thank you note and snail mail it to their attention. When people do respond back to you be sure to let them know how appreciative you are that they took the time to do so, and compliment them on their communication skills as being very refreshing in today’s very non responsive environment.

Make friends with their direct reports, be it a receptionist or an administrative assistant developing relationships with them will likely allow easier access to the person when you need to get directly to their boss.

If you are dealing with a potential contractor, a service person, check out response and follow-up times in doing the reference checks. If you need to schedule a service or delivery ask the scheduler for special circumstances for contact directly to the delivery person or service tech because you are waiting on a call and may need to head out on an emergency family situation. Or at the minimum they need to call you when they are directly headed to your location, as you might be called away. When people do show up on time be sure to let them know how appreciative you are to have them there and how refreshing it is for someone like them to be responsive and considerate of your time.

If you are a business owner or empowered to make changes take a close look at how your people are returning calls and following up with clients or customers. Strongly consider scraping automated answering and directory systems, and have a live person answering the phone and taking messages, at least during normal business hours. On all new job applications some personal contact should always be initiated to let the person feel welcome and know you have a class act organization that cares about people. Don’t let your staff hide behind electronic walls.

Don’t be aggressive and mark e-mails as priority or send Outlook invites without permission.

Don’t send multiple e-mails or leave countless voice mails, unless you have paid for a service that has not been provided.

If you are in sales, well I’m sorry some in your profession has created a lot of this communication problem. People just don’t want to be spammed and be consistently solicited. You are trained to stay persistent to make a sale, so personally it’s hard to get a sales person off the phone, that’s why so many are reluctant to return a call. Now people are resorting to sending what appears to be a personal e-mail as a trick sales introduction. As the economy stays weak more and more work from home solicitors are hitting the Internet to try and make a living, but this is really adding to the clogging of people’s e-mail inbox's. Your best bet is to be available and courteous understanding that developing long term relationships will serve you well. Make a special point to recognize people’s birthdays, or other special events such as promotions. Consider adding the new QR scan boxes on your business cards and brochures so people can scan in your contact information into their smart phone for future needs if they want.

If you are on the other end with sales people clogging your inbox and voice mail be considerate that they too are trying to make a living. Who knows in this economy you might need them to help you network for a new job in the near future. I always try to respond back on the legitimate sales contacts, with an appreciative response letting them know you are aware they have a great product or service that you might just need in the future, but for now you cherish the long term business relationship you have with your current vendor. As they respond back, which they probably will on how they can save you time and money, just let them know you have their contact information and that you are just so overwhelmed with e-mails that you would rather not block them as spam mail in case you might need to talk to them in the future.

If you can afford to set one day a month a side for new products, invite the ones in that you may want to consider looking over and allowing them time to educate you on new products. This will allow you to select and respond back with a follow-up to potentially new items.

If you do have a need for new software or piece of equipment, sit down and list all the features you must have, and then when sales people call simply send them the requirements you are looking for as a Request for Proposal (RFP) you will find this cuts to the chase, eliminates a lot of want to be communications clogging your e-mails, and most important keeps you focused on the must haves and not all the sales attributes that will just keep your head spinning.

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