Just read my !?@$#%^ Email!!!

It happens almost daily, specifically though, 3x  yesterday with vendors!  I spent time articulating my thoughts, taking screenshots, copying directly from the program, re-reading what I wrote, summarizing, and using every “how to get your writing read” tool I have consumed in the 20+ years and sure enough, 3-5+ exchanges later, I am ready to pull my hair out and reach through the email/phone and strangle someone.  Disclaimer, this article is longer than three paragraphs and more than 140-characters, and is probably about you or someone you know.

{banging head on keyboard} photo 8011098.gifThe problem.  We live in a selfish and distracted culture.  We do not read for comprehension, we read for social media ratings and its shocking and share value.  We think we are multi-tasking but we are actually distracted and not doing anything well.  We don’t appreciate the time someone takes to write something to communicate to us because we are overwhelmed with spam and bots.  Slowing down is not acceptable in today’s world of constant interruptions, but everyone wears the badge and self-righteously proclaims they are a multi-tasker.  If it is not 3 paragraphs or less we complain that it takes too much time to read, and our culture accommodates this, let me give some examples including the 3 from yesterday:

  • The most aggravating websites I go to in my industry are the slide presentation articles.  I am ‘hooked’ by the title, and when I launch the link (url), I am taken to a page that has 23 slides that I must arrow through versus a single article.  Someone sat in a room somewhere and said out loud, “This is a good idea.  We can show more pictures, and people on smart phones or surfing the web will gladly click through 25 slides to get the content of a 4 paragraph article.
  • I fill out a “contact us” or “chat help” with all this information regarding my issue and account information and sure enough when the agent connects, they ask me for it all again.  I have replied, “I am confused, I thought I just filled that out, let me copy and paste that for you.”
  • I spend considerable time writing a KB or How-To, or even a step-by-step outline/email, and the recipient says, “Hey how do you…” and I gently mention, “Oh, I sent that to you last week.” or “Let me forward that to you again.”  I then say to myself, where did that notification/email go that I sent you last week?  Does your search work?  Oh yeah, it was easier for you to interrupt me and ask me again.
  • I order something as a ‘guest’ on a website, taking snapshot of the receipt (lesson learned – avoiding spam but also proving you purchased), and 2 days later when I inquire about obtaining the digital download, the TSR responds with a scripted reply that says, “You can log in through your account and obtain your XXX, also it was sent to you in 2 emails after your purchase.”   (I did not receive the emails, I sent a copy of my receipt in the first inquiry, guest accounts mean you do not have an account, and finally captain obvious, if I received the emails you are talking about, would I be writing?).
  • I fill out the “Contact Us” and in the message I write, “I am inquiring about partnership/affiliate programs.  I could not locate it on your site, and was looking for specifics and requirements, please forward by email as am hard to reach by phone sometimes.  Thank you beforehand.”  I check the box that says, “Preferred contact = email” and an hour later, I get a message that “Alex called and is trying to reach me and will follow up with an email.”  Three hours later, I get an email that says, “Hey tried to reach you by phone but I was unable to talk to anyone or leave a voicemail.  I just wanted to follow up and get you that quote, call me on my cell.”  Reach by phone – unable to talk, get me a flippin quote and call you on your cell?  I almost told the guy from big brand name No Thanks I am no longer interested.
  • “Good afternoon XXX, I just wanted to forward to you XXX’s
    new address as it appears that you still have the old address and wanted to make sure you updated your information.”  I copy and paste the entire account information (full street address, main contact, google link etc).  The response I get is, “Is this their billing address because I still have XXX (the address I just notified him was wrong) and I respond, “They have been at the new address I sent you for 2+ months now and I just wanted to serve you with getting their updated information.”  Answer:  “Can you call me, I need some clarification…”  a total of 5 emails when all I wanted to do was help our partner with the new address, and he is confused and wants me now to call him!  My co-worker rescued me and replied back to him, “You may want to reach out to XXX and update your records yourself.”
  • “Mr. Vendor, for some reason I am getting the invoices for your services and they need to be going to XXX please.”  Response, “Click on this link and you can change the billing contact.”  I go to the link, authenticate, and go to the billing contact and it 1) the billing contact on file and who received the invoice (me) are clearly different.   I don’t change anything, take a snapshot, and put a note on the graphic that says, “How I found it when I logged in.” and forward to the vendor explaining  2) I cannot change the billing contact to XXXX even though it is our accounting email.  They respond with.  “I see that XXX is now the billing contact.  XXX will be the invoices moving forward.  The invoices should go to them now.” {while writing this article, I got another invoice from them which I forwarded with the conversation string of my request to include the two other confirmation’s  of what I was requesting!!!}

This is not just from yesterday, this happens ALL THE TIME and I have had enough.  So here is my action plan

  1. If I have the option, I try to call first attempting to avoid these ‘confusing’ emails and directives, so I can verbally affirm 3+ times on the phone that the receiver has understood my request, can repeat my request, and understand that I am clear and want nothing but my request.
  2. After two exchanges pick up the phone.  I have had a policy for years of limiting to two exchanges by email or written, and then I pick up the phone or schedule an appointment.  A few years ago, MindTools came out with an “interrupter’s log” and I downloaded it and used it for a week.  I got so aggravated by the 2nd day and it was already full.  Lifehacker wrote an article 2 years ago that it takes about 25-minutes to regain focus after an interruption.  The NY Times wrote an article four years ago showing that …the distraction of an interruption, combined with the brain drain of preparing for that interruption, made our test takers 20 percent dumber – that’s enough to turn a B- student into a failure.” I am not doing 3-99 exchanges with you any more because it takes 3-99x 25 minutes to get back to what I was doing.  If you don’t respect my time, I am not respecting yours.
  3. If you are a vendor or partner and do this to me, this is indicative that you are not serious about customer service, and I am looking for a new vendor.  Gone are the days in which you and your company hold the patent on this or that widget, someone else probably has the same thing or a slight variant and gets customer service.  I am going with them.  I don’t care if you are a big brand name, the standard of excellence is higher for you regarding customer service in my opinion.  If I am willing to send money/referrals your way, and you act like this, i cannot fathom what the end-user experience is like!
  4. If you consistently cause me to have to repeat myself, take extra steps to give you the same information, cannot communicate with your team with the information I already sent you, I am going to send you a copy of this article and I am going to escalate it to your boss.  Someone should be made aware how you just lost them a good customer and how much of an disrespectful and selfish person you are.  C’mon don’t treat executives (or anyone for that matter) like this.  “Do onto others as you would have them do on to you” or perhaps “consider others more important than yourself’ and I guarantee, I will knock over chairs to do business with you.
  5. Finally, every instance reminds me to slow down, read messages, review messages, and research things for myself before I ‘fire off’ or ‘hit send’.  I am going to continue to read about email etiquette, good writing, and relational conflict (http://peacemaker.net) because I care about people in my life.  I do not take it lightly that this is a divine appointment, however what I am refusing to do is contribute to paternalism any longer, it is not helping anyone.