General Voicemail, Where Are You?
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This is what I do all day: I collect information, manipulate it, and give it out again. You could say Iím in the information business. Where I work, we make use of all the latest technology to collect our data. E-mail, Internet, fax Ė and some old technology, namely snail mail.

There is one thing, however, that I need to meet my goals: the telephone.

ďAn instrument of the devil,Ē an old boss of mine used to say. It may be a devilish device, but itís effective, which is why mine still gets heavy use.

I should say itís effective when you can get through. Many pitfalls and stumbling blocks are often built-in to prevent you from reaching the person you need.

Voicemail is the biggest one. I donít mind voicemail in the least. When a machine takes my call, I can quic
kly marshal my thoughts and leave a concise message. Sometimes people actually return my call. At the very least, they know I called and the reason why.

I read in the paper recently about a businessman who was offered a huge sum for an advertising slogan he had dreamed up. It would never have happened if he hadnít returned a phone call from a strange lawyer in another state. ďItís my policy to return every phone call, no matter what,Ē he said.

I was shocked, since I was positive I was the only person on Earth who still did this.

There are some cases when I do reach a real person. But then they might say, ďOh, you donít want me. You want Susie in Payroll. Iíll transfer you.Ē I wait, expecting Susie.

ďHi, this is Susie.Ē So far so good. ďIím away from my desk right now, but leave your name and number, blah blah blah.Ē This always takes the wind from my sails. The first person led me to believe that Susie was right there, just dying to take my call. But she wasnít. Dejected, I leave my message.

Many times I canít even get a real person. Some companies have totally automated their phone systems. I think these companies should try calling themselves. So many things can and do go wrong with these systems that I canít believe anyone uses them. Faced with a baffling array of menu choices, I usually opt for the last choice offered Ė to talk to the operator.

But the operator canít be there all the time. Maybe sheís at lunch. Or in the ladies room. Or having a cigarette. Thatís when the General takes over.

What General, you ask? General Voicemail. Heís a wily old soldier, ready for anything. When no one else wants to hear from you, the General is there, holding down the fort.

ďPlease leave your name and number in general voicemail, and someone will get back to you.Ē

Let me translate. ďSomeone will get back to you,Ē means that nobody, absolutely nobody, will ever get back to you. I have left my name in many general voicemails and I assure you this is true.

It makes me wonder. Where is the General? Why doesnít he call back? Is he busy inspecting the troops, playing golf, or generally doing whatever general things generals do? Does he even exist? Maybe heís a myth, like Santa.

General Voicemail, if you do exist, please return my call. Sure, I know youíre busy. But so am I.

Businesses take note. If a machine and not a human answers your company phone, make sure that someone, a real person who is held accountable, returns every call.

Because I want to believe that the General is still on duty and not yet retired, as is generally the case.

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