EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

The long history of telephone use in this country is pretty obvious. And, unlike all the bad jokes I have seen over the years about “young folks” today never having known a time when ….. (you fill in the blank), I have to say that I am amazed and astounded most days by the lack of knowledge by those I call as to how these darn things work.

I recently took an old phone out to the driveway and smashed it with a sledgehammer to see what was inside. Yes, I know I could have used a screw driver and taken it apart carefully, but I was in one of those “dark moods.” Anyway, the truth be told, there was nothing remarkable inside of it.

This leads me to conclude that most of what I experience on a daily basis in trying to reach my many friends must fall into the category of “operator error.”

Perhaps we should start with the current bane of our existence – the cell phone. I hope that all of you remember the now ancient Verizon commercial where the technician is saying (in a normal tone of voice): Can you hear me now? Sad to say, I can’t hear him now. I assume he is standing under a cell tower that is not visible because I know I have been in the places he has been and I have had many of you call me from the same places and our conversation is more like: CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? (Capital letters indicate screaming.) This is usually followed by my saying: “I guess I lost him/her.”

The lesson here is that, if you can avoid it, don’t make or receive any important phone calls using your cell phone. (I could be wrong, but it is not polite to yell during a business phone call, and there is always the possibility that the curse you express (which is not acceptable in polite society) just might be received at the other end, so be careful. Like saying ouch when you burn yourself, I agree it is hard to stifle.

Voice mail. I spend much of my day playing telephone tag. Although it doesn’t require as much energy as the running around required in that childhood game of “tag you’re it,” may I suggest that all members of The FENG (as the professionals I know you are), put a real phone message on your voice mail? Yes, I know that will require your reading the instructions you find on Google or stumbling your way through it, and that it could take an hour or more to get it right, but those “standard” messages are just not professional. Might I also humbly suggest that you mention your name?

I know there is great fear out there that causes people to tell you their phone number instead of their name, but it is honestly “urban legend.” If you provide a proper message, your knees will not bend in the wrong direction causing you to fall forward. Honest! I have a proper message, and none of your worst nightmares have ever happened to me. (Okay, some of them have, but we don’t need to get into that now.) I guess I should also mention that cutesy messages featuring your 6 year old or with your dog barking in the background should also be avoided on your business line.

And now for a brief primer on leaving messages. My answering machine used to have a facility to replay the last 10 seconds. (Sadly, not anymore.) The reason I assume was to make it possible to play back your phone number. The hint is that this is where your phone number should be when you leave a message. And, try not to leave more than one phone number. May I also suggest that no matter how many exchanges you have had with the person with whom you are currently playing telephone tag, that you always leave your phone number. (An important corollary of this is to have your outgoing signature appear EVEN on replies, although Microsoft Outlook and Gmail doesn’t seem to think that this should be the default setting.)

If you are really in a mood to amaze and astound me, you might also want to tell me why you are calling. (I know this requires a special occasion, but I do find it helpful.)

I hope that like me, you have never known a time when we didn’t have telephones. (Although I must admit that when I was a young lad, we did have a party line. But, that’s a story for another time.)

Perhaps it is time to learn how to use this tool effectively.

Regards, Matt

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