View Full Version : The death of the most fundamental courtesy



Pete
11-09-2014, 11:10 AM
When did the social and business convention of simply not returning calls and emails become acceptable? Email has been around for a long time now and most get dozens of messages every single day. Also, lots of calls and texts.

It was always my thought that not returning a communication within 24 hours was exceptionally rude. But clearly, the world has changed so much that often messages just never get returned at all, or at best you hear back in a few days or a week.

And from a business standpoint, I was always told (and I always made sure the people I managed followed) that 1 business day was the absolute maximum for replying to any communication.


It's just so bizarre to me. It doesn't take any less time to respond in a week than it does today. In fact, it takes more time because you have to save the message, think about it, and then go back and find it and then respond.

I would say it's a generational thing but most my contemporaries have adopted the “only do it when I feel like it” approach as well.

And “I'm busy at work” or “I don't know XXX yet” are not excuses for not quickly responding with THAT answer and then following up when you can. If you've read/heard a message, you are in a position to respond that will only take seconds.

Yes, there are more ways to communicate these days but that doesn't mean that when someone specifically reaches out to you in a way where a response is expected, that it's any less important to provide the basic civility of a timely reply.

Technology and courtesy need not be mutually exclusive.


P.S. In the rare instance I haven't provided a prompt response, I deeply apologize. Things do slip through the cracks but I endeavor to hit 100% and probably only achieve 99%.

bradh
11-09-2014, 11:37 AM
I try to have a rule that even if I don't have an answer for that person, a quick reply saying something like "Got your note, working on XXXX..." at least shows you acknowledged receipt or something.

Pete
11-09-2014, 11:57 AM
I can tell you that when I call or write and don't get a reply, I'll almost always follow up a few days later.

But if I still don't get a response, that person goes on my s-list. I certainly won't send them referrals or do them any favors down the road.

That doesn't come from a vindictive place, just an understanding that they can't be counted on thus they go to the end of the line when it comes to dispensing generosity.

At the same time, if they happen to contact me at some later point in a way where a reply is expected, I still provide that courtesy.

Midtowner
11-10-2014, 07:05 AM
Pete, I'm a horrible offender at not returning calls. It's probably because I get so damn many phone calls where I know what the question is and know I've given them the answer many times over already. Also, it is not uncommon for me to finish returning a call and be handed 2-3 missed call slips.

I vastly prefer email and text messaging and mostly text messaging. I give my phone out and encourage clients to text me if they need my immediate attention.

There is, of course, a downside to that, having received phone calls at 3AM from obviously intoxicated clients who need answers RIGHT NOW.

Bullbear
11-10-2014, 07:14 AM
the expectation for my team is to reply within hours and never to exceed 24 hours for replies. if there is additional research required they should be replying and updating the sender of progress on their inquiry. Communication is key, so if you need additional time to complete the task you should be communicating that and updating them on your progress. the more information someone has the better they feel about he interaction.

Roger S
11-10-2014, 07:23 AM
I thought this thread was going to be about holding a door open for people..... A courtesy that seems to disappear the closer we get to the holidays.

Pete
11-10-2014, 07:33 AM
Pete, I'm a horrible offender at not returning calls. It's probably because I get so damn many phone calls where I know what the question is and know I've given them the answer many times over already. Also, it is not uncommon for me to finish returning a call and be handed 2-3 missed call slips.

I vastly prefer email and text messaging and mostly text messaging. I give my phone out and encourage clients to text me if they need my immediate attention.

There is, of course, a downside to that, having received phone calls at 3AM from obviously intoxicated clients who need answers RIGHT NOW.

So, why do you give your number out and invite calls when you know you are not going to return the calls promptly?

Why not just encourage emails or texts?

There is nothing wrong with saying, "If you need an immediate response, text or email are the best ways to reach me." That's pretty much what I do and only give out my number to a subset of those where real-time interaction is needed.

RadicalModerate
11-10-2014, 07:58 AM
I can tell you that when I call or write and don't get a reply, I'll almost always follow up a few days later.

But if I still don't get a response, that person goes on my s-list. I certainly won't send them referrals or do them any favors down the road.

That doesn't come from a vindictive place, just an understanding that they can't be counted on thus they go to the end of the line when it comes to dispensing generosity.

At the same time, if they happen to contact me at some later point in a way where a reply is expected, I still provide that courtesy.

I think you nailed it, Pete: They are undependable.
Of course, the assumption here is that the reason you contacted them in the first place wasn't some form of "business spam" which, in your case, is highly unlikely.

I think part of the reason people ignore emails, etc. is because they are overwhelmed with the daily flood of data from Cyberspace and sometimes the important stuff gets buried. That is no excuse, it is only a possible reason. People seem to need much better and more effective filters for the Infostream.

p.s.: Any emails or texts not returned due to excessive reading of and posting on OKC don't count in the above analysis. =)

Pete
11-10-2014, 08:16 AM
There are all types of communications, of course.

There are personal messages to friends, and I have a bunch that just don't respond or get back to me a week or more later.

But when I reach out to someone via the phone or email on behalf of OKCTalk, about 75% of the people don't respond at all Not even, "Thanks for your interest but we are not at liberty to discuss our plans at this time." Just no response whatsoever, even after multiple attempts where I even end up stating, "I understand if you might not what to comment but would appreciate verification you received my message and prefer not to comment at this time."

Believe me, I get tons of unsolicited emails and calls and I respond to all, unless it's just outright spam. And as you can imagine, I get all types of requests. The only exception is when someone is being rude and trying to get a response out of me and even then I'll reply once then usually just stop if things continue down that path.

I just can't fathom someone calling or writing me directly, with a very specific question or request and that I simply choose to ignore them. As I said before, it's just completely bizarre to me, especially in a community like OKC where at most you have one degree of separation between any two people.

But it also goes to show that many consider not responding at all to be totally acceptable, which is a very recent (like last 10-15 years) thing.

There is clearly the mindset of, "Well, this person can't do anything for me, so I'm not going to waste me time." But of course: 1) You never, ever know how relationships will come into play down the road; and 2) it's how you treat those that have nothing to offer you that defines character.

jerrywall
11-10-2014, 09:05 AM
Of different ways to contact me, the medium directs the urgency.

A text is someone needing an immediate reply. Minutes.
A phone call is slightly less urgent, but the response should be in hours.
An email? Days. If it's more urgent, call or text me.

rezman
11-10-2014, 09:30 AM
I agree phone calls and email should be returned in an appropriate amount of time. I think texting in business or business transactions is totally inappropriate unless a dialog between the parties has been established and it is agreed that an exchange of texting is ok. Initiating a contact should never be done by text in my opinion. Texting belongs more in the social world.

Pete
11-10-2014, 11:04 AM
Here is the exact quote I referenced above:

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.


I've always loved this and found it to be completely true.

CuatrodeMayo
11-10-2014, 11:13 AM
I am an occasional offender in this realm (if you have ever PMed me, then you know this is true).

I agree that the method by which I am communicated to dictates the urgency of the request.

When somebody calls me, I assume it is because they need an immediate answer, not one that can wait for an hour or more. I usually return calls as soon as I get them. The only exception is repeated sales calls if I have already answered their questions/requests.

I try to return emails within 24 hours, however, they sometimes can sit in my inbox for 2-3 days before I respond. I never completely ignore them, Iím just sometimes tardy in my responses. Oftentimes it takes me quite a bit of time to formulate a response to the difficult/complicated requests I receive.

I agree the text messaging is not always a business-appropriate communication method. In some cases it works well (attorneys), but not in others. In my line of work, I only give out my personal number to select clients but never to contractors (they will abuse it).

But what REALLY burns me up is when a consultant/engineer THAT I HIRED AND PAID FEES TO ignores my phone calls and emails. Believe-it-or-not, this happens quite often. Needless to say, that is the last project they work on for me.

Pete
11-10-2014, 11:27 AM
But what REALLY burns me up is when a consultant/engineer THAT I HIRED AND PAID FEES TO ignores my phone calls and emails. Believe-it-or-not, this happens quite often. Needless to say, that is the last project they work on for me.

But this is the natural extension of what has become generally acceptable.

Simply put, many people feel like responding to a communication is completely optional, even in business circles.

This was absolutely never the way until quite recently. Your reputation would be shot to hell if you merely decided not to return phone calls, for whatever reason.


My friends with college-aged kids tell me all the time they just don't respond to calls and even texts. And this is where the parents are paying for everything, even the phone! And of course, the kids are on the phone all day, texting, tweeting and Facebook-ing. They just choose not to respond even when the parents only contact them once a week or so. I would cancel that phone immediately and stop payment on tuition with a very firm understanding of no more than a 4-hour reply time frame.

But of course, that doesn't happen and with each generation there is less and less thought about replying to anything at all.

Jeepnokc
11-10-2014, 11:44 AM
But this is the natural extension of what has become generally acceptable.

Simply put, many people feel like responding to a communication is completely optional, even in business circles.

This was absolutely never the way until quite recently. Your reputation would be shot to hell if you merely decided not to return phone calls, for whatever reason.


My friends with college-aged kids tell me all the time they just don't respond to calls and even texts. And this is where the parents are paying for everything, even the phone! And of course, the kids are on the phone all day, texting, tweeting and Facebook-ing. They just choose not to respond even when the parents only contact them once a week or so. I would cancel that phone immediately and stop payment on tuition with a very firm understanding of no more than a 4-hour reply time frame.

But of course, that doesn't happen and with each generation there is less and less thought about replying to anything at all.

New app to fix problem with kids. Ignore No More: Home-made app shuts down children's phones if parents' calls go ignored : PERSONAL TECH : Tech Times (http://www.techtimes.com/articles/13413/20140820/ignore-no-more-home-made-app-shuts-down-childrens-phones-if-parents-calls-go-ignored.htm)

Our policy in our office is that calls and emails are to be returned within 1 business day. All of our clients have my direct email and are told to send me an email if they have any issues not getting response within this time frame.

RadicalModerate
11-10-2014, 11:48 AM
Here is the exact quote I referenced above:
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”—Malcolm S. Forbes.

I've always loved this and found it to be completely true.

I've always liked that quote, too.
However, the [alleged] "originator" preceded Mr. Forbes by a few centuries: Okay, maybe not "a few" but at least a couple.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I say ["alleged"] because I'm fairly sure that a statement, or two, alluding to that same fact is found in Classical Greek Literature and probably The Bible. Not thumpin' . . . just sayin'.

If you think about it . . . not returning valid calls, etc. is breaking that Golden Rule most kids are supposed to be taught in Primary School.

Pete
11-10-2014, 12:12 PM
New app to fix problem with kids. Ignore No More: Home-made app shuts down children's phones if parents' calls go ignored : PERSONAL TECH : Tech Times (http://www.techtimes.com/articles/13413/20140820/ignore-no-more-home-made-app-shuts-down-childrens-phones-if-parents-calls-go-ignored.htm)

Very cool!

However, the need for such an invention is pretty telling, isn't it?


I know that even with my nieces and nephews, I'll often send them information on something we talked about and they just never respond at all. Perfectly nice kids; polite, even. Yet, I send them something that represents a totally thoughtful and considerate gesture and I usually don't even get an acknowledgement.


The problem with this is once the expectations become so hazy, there are just no limits. Nobody really has to respond at all and then in this age of communication, it all just breaks down.

kevinpate
11-10-2014, 12:25 PM
You want to hear from your children, grown or not yet grown?
That's easy. Simply end your text or email or voice mail with a vague mention of hoping the check/gift-card/b-day-card with cash inside is enjoyed. :Smiley122


on edit: fortunately this is not something that is needed for my lads and my lass. But I've always liked that dang joke.

kevinpate
11-10-2014, 12:38 PM
I and fairly good on responding to email, voice-mail, texts, and known numbers. But if someone calls in and no message left at all, the call is not going to be considered a priority call. The reason is simple. 1 of 50 may be someone who needs me but was in a hurry. The rest are spam, cold sales calls, yada, yada, yada.

I'll answer most calls and texts and emails up to about 11 pm. After 11 pm and before 5 am is dependent on whether I am awake and also coherent and whether I am busy aiding someone. I sleep in short spurts, sometimes in day hours, sometimes after dark-thirty. If I am awake I may be working, irrespective of the time on a clock. Not everything to be done is dependent on the schedule of others.

RadicalModerate
11-10-2014, 01:33 PM
So . . . My cellphone just alerted me a call was coming in. I glanced and the number and didn't recognize it but decided, "what the heck" and answered anyway.

"Hello," I said.
"Mr. Cook?" the voice on the other end of the call asked.
"Nope. Wrong number."
"We've been calling this number for a long time and have had many conversations. Did you just get this number?"
"Nope. Had it for years. You must have misdialed."
In a somewhat shaken and confused tone of voice: "No. It's an autoserver . . . I'll have to check into this."
"Please do. And don't call me again."

Next time, I'll use my normal filter: Don't pick up a number you don't recognize.
If they leave a message requiring a response instead of a hangup (.5% of the time), respond.
If not, shine it on.

rezman
11-10-2014, 03:27 PM
One thing that burns me up is when someone texts wanting something important... At least to them anyway,.. And they don't have rhe decency to pick up the phone and call. We had a family member ask us to co-sign a car loan. First time by text to my wife... Showing photos of the car he couldn't afford... which was answered the same day with a polite refusal. The second time was by email, through my wife's Facebook acount. ( family member knows better than to ask me) The wife answered in the proper amount of time with a short and direct NO!

blangtang
11-10-2014, 11:45 PM
"We've all heard that automated voice mail lady, telling us what to do after the beep. But fewer people than ever are leaving messages. And the millennials, they won't even listen to them — they'd much rather receive a text or Facebook message."

Please Do Not Leave A Message: Why Millennials Hate Voice Mail : All Tech Considered : NPR (http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/23/358301467/please-do-not-leave-a-message-why-millennials-hate-voice-mail)

bradh
11-11-2014, 08:04 PM
I read this today on SB Nation, and I found it appropriate to this discussion:


I have no doubt that the person on the other end of the Nintendo help line delivered excellent customer service. In the pre-Internet era, people on the other end of a long-distance communication actually held up their end of the bargain. At some point around 1995, I was looking through an old SimCity box and found a postage-paid postcard that read, "mail this in to join the SimCity fan club." The game was more than five years old at this point, but stuck it in the mailbox anyway out of pure curiosity.

A couple weeks later, I get this typed letter, personally addressed to me, that explains that the fan club promotion had concluded years ago and apologizing for the inconvenience. If this were the Internet Era we were talking about, someone would have made a "pffffft" noise and thrown it in the garbage. They wouldn't even wad it up first. They'd just hold it flush against their palm, crudely swing their arm forward like a catapult, and watch that flat slip of card-stock waft slowly to the floor like a dead leaf.

Long-distance stranger accountability has just eroded. People at the cable company will lie that they've scheduled a repair truck just to get you off the phone. A third of my email isn't answered in a timely fashion because the tab says "Inbox (4)" and I crumple within myself and compress into a single 190-pound molecule of despair.

A thing about period pieces that genuinely amazes me: a Roman general can send a message from Gaul to Caesar and it actually gets there. Hell with all the swords and flaming arrows and whatnot, the logistics are the real fireworks.

Mel
11-11-2014, 08:22 PM
This thread is making me remorseful for not mailing out all the thank you notes I should have 38 years ago when I got married.

ctchandler
11-11-2014, 08:39 PM
This thread is making me remorseful for not mailing out all the thank you notes I should have 38 years ago when I got married.

Mel,
I would have felt bad as well, but my late wife did a fine job of sending the thank you notes. When we got married in 1966, I never wrote another letter or sent another card. She was a fine lady, but too easy, she should have asked me to help.
C. T.