What is it about people and their contact details? Some will give their life story; others demand to know why you want their name. The nature of my job just seems to exacerbate things. And technology doesn’t seem to help, either; if anything it makes the situation worse.
Take voicemail messages. People who want to hear back from you – in my case the PR paparazzi trying to get their man, woman, product, event or service made into a story – manage to spell their name twice, repeat their telephone number in a long, slow, easy-to-understand way, include cheap rate times, add their cellphone and, just for good measure, do the same thing after ringing my cellphone and then follow-up with an email explaining everything again. And then repeat it all in the afternoon, the following morning and on and on until finally I give in because life’s too short.
People who don’t want to call back – the ones I’m chasing to get a quote on something topical, but which may require thought or comment on a shoddy service, faulty product, customer complaint or an opinion – well, their tactics are altogether different. Of course, they generally don’t call. Or if they do the time of day is crucial. Between 10pm and 6am is clearly a good time to catch me. “Sorry, thought you might be working late/early …”
Then there’s the 12.30pm to 1.30pm slot, where I’m likely to be out re-fuelling. And if not, they can always hang up and try again after 10pm.
The message itself usually goes something like a horse-race commentator on speed: “Hi, this is frstinghen spovxsthingy from kytughhbyu returning your call. My number is wroity frana htinty opun botuten … cheers.” Of course, the name and number can be further masked with well-placed coughs, splutters, noisy backgrounds or simply hanging up halfway through and later blaming cellphone reception. Failing that, of course, the hard-to-reach person will transpose a number, so I’m meant to believe I’m the one at fault and have simply written it down incorrectly.
Either way, by the time I do track them down, the story has been written or it’s old news, take your pick.
The endlessly ringing reception phone is always a good one. Leaving a message with colleagues far from foolproof: “Really, they didn’t say you’d called.” Or, “Unfortunately, he went on unexpected three-weeks’ leave the minute after you’d called and didn’t leave a message.”
So the other day while on hold for a service rep at the IRD I was intrigued, yet somewhat doubtful, when offered a shot at its ‘call back’ service. All I had to do was leave my name and number and, voila, the IRD would call me … that’s right, no waiting on hold for half an hour, they’d call me. What’s more, it was specific: between 16 and 24 minutes. There was nothing for it. I had to give the service a go.
Out came the stopwatch and the minutes began to tick by. One, two, three ... 14, 15, 16 … my hopes were raised soon after, but it was a colleague calling for a chat. I quickly shooed him off the line … 21 … and the phone rang. It was the IRD, as promised, and on time!
I was impressed.