The Mystery of the Unanswered Messages – Why people just can’t call back?

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Unanswered messages - the myndset digital marketing brand strategy

Speaking with a number of entrepreneurs around me — especially those having to deal with people within large business (but not only) — there are way too many unanswered messages out there. There is an evident dearth of people who think that calling back or responding is normal or common courtesy. The number of emails, voicemails, SMS, Linkedin messages, etc. that go unanswered is quite staggering. I have never seen a statistic on this, but one has to imagine that the percentage is big and growing.

Considering that communication is the lifeblood of an organization, this could make one wonder about how business continues? And, I am not even thinking about the number of unviewed or uncommented blog post, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram images, etc. Beyond the frustration of having to traipse through the sent mails to resend a message, the humiliation of having to leave yet another voice mail or the missed opportunity because someone just can’t get back in time, there is a lot of negative energy and wasted resources in today’s dissipated communication channels.

Why are there so many unanswered messages?

I see three main reasons for these unanswered messages, one of which has meaningfully exacerbated the issue.

  1. Not enough time. It’s the most precious resource for any person and for most organizations. However, meeting-itis, politics and mismanaged prioritization (much less poor time management) are a lethal combination, eating up valuable time. As a result, listening, empathy and common decency (in the form of a response) are too often thrown by the wayside.
  2. Too many channels, too many mails. There is just too much communicating going on. As a result, it is hard to keep conversations straight. A poke on Facebook, can convert to a Facebook message, which transfers to an email which leads to a telephone call and then an SMS and a meeting. Keeping track of the multi-platform conversation and the data along the way (telephone number, email, sales information, statements…) becomes complicated. One of the keys is to know which is a person’s preferred channel of communication and keeping with it. {Click to tweet if you agree!}
  3. People don’t really know why they’re at work. Sure, they know about their year-end objectives and the paycheck. However, they are not carried by a deeper drive that explains why they are working so hard. For too many people, the motivation for work is limited to functional and/or material reasons. There is no deeper resonance or personal link with the job at hand. They don’t care enough. As a result, the energy level to pierce through the mound of paperwork and the backlog of emails, just isn’t there. I shall never forget a senior executive who once admitted to me that, at week’s end, he calmly deleted all unread emails before leaving for his weekend with the premise: if it is important enough, they will resend or contact me by phone.

They said it: “if it is important enough, they will resend or contact me by phone!”

Not to forget the poor messages

So, the reasons why people don’t reply are complex. Undoubtedly, there is also the innundation of useless messages, rife with spelling mistakes delivered in a pushy, interruptive style that contributes to the disaffection. There are the unnecessary CC or BCC in emails. There are the spam filters. And, for many, there is just not enough basic knowledge of how the systems work to manage effectively and efficiently each of the networks and channels. If people knew how to use services such as Nutshellmail to integrate social into the email stream, Dragon Diction to type faster, Hootsuite to manage the different social streams, etc. that would certainly help executives to stay on top. However, bottom line, the executive must WANT to stay in touch. This means, ultimately, having the passion, consideration and generosity to keep the communications vital and in real-time.

And what about the uber popular?

Chris-Brogan - the myndset digital marketing brand strategy

The genial ever popular Chris Brogan

There is another class of people who are emphatically over popular. These mediatized, uber well-known people are not targeted in this post. They live in another world, where they are oversollicited by adulating fans or uninvited and/or insignificant requests. In this case, the issue is having a system that alerts people to the non-responsiveness. On a personal level, I always appreciated how Chris Brogan managed the situation and his rise to stardom, where he clearly stated in his profile/messages that he could no longer keep up. Meanwhile, less excusably, there are well-known companies that just can’t keep up.  They may be very popular for recruitment, for example, but they become so arrogant that they do not deign to send any message back for a CV received, etc. Whereas Chris is an individual and was sincerely intent on always getting back (and there are many such people who I laud for keeping that attitude despite the burgeoning stardom), it became unfeasible for an individual. At a company level, I believe that such unanswered messages is a sign of mismanagement. {Click to tweet if you agree!}

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome!

6 Comments, RSS

  1. Jean-Christophe Solus

    Some people are at fault here: they deliberately send iterations of the
    same message to make sure they are read (in different time zones). They treat
    email and certainly tweets) as a radio flow.

    Software companies are also to be blamed: it would not be very difficult
    to set up a standard encompassing a flag such as “Individual response expected”.

    Finally there is an utter lack of counting and accounting. Although
    webmail APIs would permit such a minor evolution, there is no such thing a KPIs
    regarding received, sent and replied messages. Why?

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