Friday, January 09, 2009

Top 7 Phone Irritations

Are these phone behaviors as irritating to others as they are to me?

1. The Auctioneer Speedup. Somebody is leaving you a voicemail message, and no matter how fast they might be talking already, they do an "auctioneer speedup" when they leave their callback number, and you have to listen repeatedly to the message to get the whole phone number. How about speaking really, really slowly when leaving your phone number? Or at least repeat it.

2. The Generic Message. You're driving in your car, or are otherwise trying to multi-task without your reading glasses, and you dial somebody's number and then get a generic, machine-voice message that only mentions the number and not the person's name. Now you're not sure if you have reached the correct person, or have reached one of your other irritating friends with a generic message. What's so hard about taking 30 seconds to put a personalized message on your phone, so that others will know with 100% certainty that they have reached the correct number?

3. The Expected Callback from a Hangup. Somebody calls and hangs up without leaving a message. Then the next time you talk to them, they ask why you didn't call back. Calling and hanging up without leaving a message is called a "hangup," not a "phone call with a message." How are we supposed to know it wasn't a mistake?

4. The Callback Before Listening to the Message. You call somebody and leave a detailed message with all of the relevant information. They see that you called, and call you back before listening to the message. In many cases, a callback is not even required, because you have already left all of the relevant information in the message. At the very least, you now have to repeat the same information that was left on the message.

5. The Unexpected, Unwanted Handoff. You are talking to somebody on their cellphone, and they suddenly hand off the phone to somebody else, possibly somebody you are not that interested in talking to.

6. The Un-businesslike Answer. Somebody answers the phone with a greeting of "Hello," instead of identifying themselves by name, or identifying the company. Besides being un-businesslike, it now requires unnecessary conversation establishing that the caller has reached the correct person.

7. Reverse Order Talking. You answer the phone, and the caller is already talking before you have even had a chance to identify yourself or open with a greeting.

Comments welcome, I'm sure this list can be increased to 10.


At 1/09/2009 3:24 PM, Blogger Shawn said...

The Undercover Call: Intentionally calling me from a strange number when I've already ignored your typical-number call.

At 1/09/2009 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Call Waiting Face-Off: You are on a call and the party on the other end puts you on 'hold' so they can get another incoming call. You begin to look at your watch, counting the seconds before you decide to hang up. (My personal call waiting face-off time is 30 seconds before I hang up.)

At 1/09/2009 4:18 PM, Blogger Tom Davis said...

The unhelpful message: When the caller leaves a message the gist of which is, "Call me." Any time you leave a voice message, it should move the dialog forward, giving whatever information you would have given and asking any questions you would have asked if the person had actually answered the phone. That way, if when the call is returned, you are unavailable, the other party can possibly conclude the dialog, or at least move it forward himself.

Personally, I never return calls if the message is, "Call me."

At 1/09/2009 4:34 PM, Blogger Dean said...

#6 kills me. As a single guy, it can really throw me off my game when an unidentifiable female voice on the other end says, "hi, its me". Besides, it shows an undeserved level of presumption.

Repetitive Message Instruction: By this time EVERYONE knows to leave a message after the beep. One does not need to be told this, yet generic female voice wastes another 15 seconds of your life which you will never get back by (re)stating the obvious.

At 1/09/2009 4:41 PM, Blogger Tom Davis said...

I do note that many of the complaints listed are somewhat generational. In these modern times, when most phones are mobile and retrieving messages is a hassle (iPhone being the exception) and time consuming which on a mobile phone may be expensive, it is generally considered to be bad manners to leave a message.

For your edification:

The Generic Message is supposed to discourage callers from leaving messages. People who have one don't want the hassle or cost of retrieving your message.

The Expected Callback from a Hangup is perfectly natural considering the above. That person was being polite, you're being a stubborn old fogey.

The Callback Before Listening is also an indication that the other party doesn't want the expense or hassle, and that you should join this century, be polite, and just hang up. The action of Callback-Before-Listening is in fact pedagogical for those paying attention.

Reverse Order Talking: Stop insisting on wasting people's time with your old fashioned ideas. The old phone greeting was designed to give the recipient the callers identity. These days that's what caller id is for.

The Undercover Call: Who answers calls made from numbers they (or their phones) don't recognize? Calling from a number unknown to the receiver is the only time you're expected to actually leave a message. Of course, the proper etiquette is to TXT message your identity first, if possible, then and only then make the call.

I hope this is useful to you.

At 1/09/2009 4:46 PM, Blogger Marko said...

The Unexpected Crowd: You are talking to someone using a speaker phone, assuming it is a private call, then you find out there are several people in the room. I really hate this one.

Doesn't Leave a Number: You get a message from someone asking you to call them back, but they don't leave a number. So now I have to go and look that up before I call back. Can't take three seconds to leave me your number? I might not call back. This is almost as bad as the fast number.

Answering Machine Message Sounds Like They Picked Up: Please make it clear it is a message, and not the person!

At 1/09/2009 4:53 PM, Blogger Christopher Monnier said...

The Unuseful Redundant Voicemail Instructions: When you've already listened to the recorded greeting by the human you're calling and you then have to wait another 8 or so seconds to listen to the instructions by the generic female voice to press some number to leave your callback number, page this person, etc.

At 1/09/2009 4:54 PM, Blogger Free2Choose said...

Doesn't Leave a Number: You get a message from someone asking you to call them back, but they don't leave a number. So now I have to go and look that up before I call back. Can't take three seconds to leave me your number? I might not call back. This is almost as bad as the fast number.

I agree with Marko. This is my pet peeve, especially if it's a business call. If I am driving, I don't have time to boot up my laptop (assuming I have it with me) and look in my Outlook contacts to find a number. I'm certainly not going to load every contact in my cell phone. Proper etiquette is to state the call back number at the beginning AND at the end of the message. I usually repeat it 3 times slowly just in case they have to write it down. Just my $.02.

At 1/09/2009 5:38 PM, Blogger David Foster said...

Moronic standardized greetings edicted by clueless management: "Hello, thank you for calling Snarfer's Steakhouse, where the elite meet to eat. My name is may I assist you today in your search for culinary excellence?"

Generally spoken fast and with words blurred together, since this is the 500th time Tiffany has had to say the same thing today.

At 1/09/2009 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you people have anything more important in life to worry about besides this?

At 1/09/2009 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Impersonation Call: I used to make impersonation calls when I needed to get through to a co-worker who was too busy to answer his phone. I would go to the CEO's receptionist's desk and borrow her phone. The caller id on my coworker's phone would show where it was coming from and he would invariably answer it.

At 1/09/2009 6:59 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The ultra long vm with the auctioneers voice at the end

someone calls (usually a woman) and leaves a looooooong message only to rush through the telephone number saying it only once. Thus you are forced to listen to the message over and over again until you have copied all the digits correctly.

please tell me your name and telephone number up front and repeat it again at the end of the message.

and it isn't a generational thang it is called manners and courtesy

At 1/09/2009 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I own a mobile phone but never use it. Then I am 70 + years old and was never brought up to be a chatterbox.
I was really surprised the way that monosyllabic people suddenly became gossips when the mobile phones appeared.

At 1/09/2009 10:10 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

The Extended Voicemail Greeting: If actors line up to star in the movie version of your greeting, it's too long.

The 5-Minute Message: Especially if the caller only talks for 30 seconds in person. If it's too detailed to easily transcribe, then email it.

Phone Stalking: If you call 12x a day, I'll get a restraining order. Compile questions or email.

Calling Prematurely: If you need to open a file before talking, open it before calling.

Calling When I'm Asleep: If you're not my mother or doctor, it can wait.

At 1/10/2009 9:31 AM, Blogger ooya said...

Tom Davis' comments above are on point. Voicemail has become obsolete for younger users, and leaving any voice message at all is considered poor phone etiquette.

If you were going to leave a "call me back" voicemail, just hang up. I will see the missed call and know that you want to talk to me.

If you have a small amount of information that you need to communicate beyond a simple 'call me back', a text message is more convenient than voicemail. Also, I may be able to see the text message if I'm in a meeting, etc, but there are many situations where I can't check my voicemail.

If you have a lot of information to communicate, voicemail is inappropriate. Send it in an email.

I would say that nowadays, voicemail is only appropriate in the rare instances when you cannot send a text message, ie: you're driving or you are on a landline.

At 1/10/2009 12:21 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> and it isn't a generational thang it is called manners and courtesy

Unfortunately, Peter, that is a generational thing... :^P

> 2. The Generic Message.
Well, I use a generic message, but it's sufficiently unique that anyone who is calling me knows it's me. And I generally don't care about anyone else who doesn't know me. If I don't know them, they can leave me a message stating their business.

My message:
"Answering Machine! Speeeeeeeak."

Short, precise, to the point. Deals with Dean's RMI, too.

> 1. The Auctioneer Speedup.
Yeah, I've always been good about this one. When I leave a message, I state the number once, then repeat it again slowly.

I've long since broken myself of the long-ingrained Pavlovian response to a telephone ringing. I did it back before cell phones were even ubiquitous.

Even in the early 90s, I screened calls. One of the downsides to cell phones is that you pretty much can't do that, although you do get automatic Caller ID, which is almost as good (Downside is that you could listen to see who it is -- now you have to go pick up the phone and see. Mind you, a good phone and some savvy can let you assign individual ringtones to every number in your "book", which can assuage that. I've got something like 30 different ringtones that play depending on who is calling.


I can note two peeves, only one of which deals with answering machines --

A) Cute and/or Obnoxiously Long Answering Machine Messages
I don't care if you think it's the best thing since you discovered oral sex --including the entire LP version of Don McLean's "American Pie". as your answering machine message is stupid

B) Multidialers and Robots
ANY -- repeat ANY -- business which uses multidialers or robotic message machines. Give me the button which will electrocute every management person at the company on the other line, and I Will Press It. When I pick up the phone, and say, "Hi!", if there that multidialer delay as the phone is hooked in, I've hung up before said buttwipe has gotten onto the line. And one of the best ways to guarantee that I will FIGHT to never give you my business is to call me with a recorded message. If you aren't interested in me enough to hire a person you can go FY -- just for wasting my precious time. I don't care if you're the only company selling spring water bottles in the middle of a heat wave with a drought. I'll swallow my own spit before I'll buy anything from you.

At 1/10/2009 1:53 PM, Blogger Mkellynotes said...

I disagree with Tom Davis.

If one would like a call back, always leave a message. If you are too busy to leave a message or retrieve one, you are too busy to use the phone.

Texting before calling. I guess Mr. Davis prefers spelling out words letter by letter on small cell phone keypads than actually calling someone.

Again, is sounds like Tom Davis dos not like using phones in general ;-)

At 1/10/2009 1:56 PM, Blogger Tenure said...

You know, these things are stupid, but they don't irritate me. So what if I have to spend thirty precious seconds doing this - or so what if I don't bother to spend those seconds doing that and the person wonders why I didn't call them back. They're unimportant and my life just isn't impacted by them.

At 1/11/2009 8:47 AM, Blogger Yorzhik said...

The only one that is really a bother is the sped up callback number. I used to do this until I had to receive messages at my company. Everyone should be forced to receive messages for a few days to cure them of saying a phone number fast when they are the one leaving the message.

Tom Davis took care of the rest.


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