Monday, May 17, 2010

Is it me?

I'm not going to begin this post by saying, "Maybe I'm old fashioned" because I KNOW that I am. I enjoy knitting and crocheting, I enjoy talking to people in person (with full sentences even), and I hate texting. So, I get that.

However, I do believe that one part of my old fashioned perspective would be really good for folks during these trying technological times. It's called etiquette. Common courtesy. Manners. Stuff like that. I'm about to put good manners on the endangered species list along with the grey wolf and the California Condor. But there is still hope. First, here's a little quiz for you.

If you see that someone has mentioned you in a Tweet, do you acknowledge said tweet or tweeter with your own tweet?

Do you respond to an email as soon as you get it? Within an hour? Within a day? Do you check your email and understand that people are asking you to respond?

Do you respond to voicemails? Ever?

In like a firehose, out like a drizzle

I think that our problem is that we have too much incoming information with no real way to prioritize it. We are getting mentioned, replied to, and retweeted on Twitter. We are getting tagged, commented on, and mentioned on Facebook. We are getting emails, text messages, voicemails, LinkedIn messages, blog comments, and who knows what else. Oh, and then that pesky work gets in the way.

The problem is that every tidbit of that stuff is someone trying to reach out to you. Maybe it's a friend, maybe it's a prospect, maybe it's an existing client. Maybe it's a telemarketer. You don't really know until you actually go through all of that stuff. You don't get an automatic "this is a high priority tweet" message, after all. Though that would kind of be nice.

The danger in all of this is that nobody really cares if you're overloaded. That's your problem. They want information from you, whether it's a quote for your consultation services or whether it's a confirmation that you made reservations for dinner. If you don't respond, the chances are very good that that tweeter or Facebooker or emailer or caller is going to feel, well, ignored.

You are Trackable

The other weapon defeating good manners is that people can now see what you are doing instead of responding to them. I think business people need to be especially cognizant of this. Let's say, for example, that you go to a website to get technical support of a customized kind. You see a form. Great. People love forms. They love forms because forms mean they are getting connected right to the top, right?

Now, let's say that you fill out such a form and you are refreshing your email every few minutes to get the helpful note you need. You wait, wait wait. Nothing. So you do a little research and find that the person you are waiting on is on Twitter. Let's say that person has Foursquare and they've just announced that they have checked in at "John Doe's Get Drunkfast Bar." Not only are you going to realize that you are not a priority, but you may also wonder why the person is checking into the  bar at 9 AM. This may or may not build your confidence in that person.

If the roles are reversed, consider where your customers might find you? There are times when I send an email, don't get a response, and then see that someone has reached gold ribbon status in Farmville. I understand that growing and harvesting cherries is a furtherance to most professions, but good manners might dictate that you should get your replies out before your farm work. Unless you're a REAL farmer.

Realistic Expectations Are Important

Now I'm not a total dictator when it comes to replying and responding. We're all busy, and we do have all of this communication stuff coming at us like never before. Because of that, however, I think it is reasonable to express some realistic guidelines with people to whom you want to maintain a positive relationship. If you tend to go get drunkfast in the mornings, note on your form that you are most likely to respond in the afternoon or evening hours. Don't say that you will respond in 24 hours if you can't. If you need to work in a harvest of virtual grapes every four hours, leave yourself six hours to respond to emails and voicemails. And if you're up to your eyeballs, take five seconds to text or email someone and say, "Got your message. Can't reply now but will soon."

Am I crazy AND old fashioned? What do you think?

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