Communication Channels

Something struck me the other day: I’ve become almost obbsessive about communicating online, in one form or another: I buy online almost whenever I can, because I detest brick-and-mortar shops.

I bank online, manage my household energy accounts online, talk to people online. At work, I prefer communication by email, and the thought of someone phoning up “for a chat” fills me with dread, to be honest. Phone converstations, even with my better half, are short, and convey information mostly.

I suppose this is to be expected in one way: the nature of my work often lends itself to email, and email is a great medium to queue things: stuff can be dealt with at a good moment, rather than interrupting thoughts. It’s a great medium for facts too. Of course, it has it’s problems, and I’m probably painfully more aware of them than many people.

Hpowever I do find the countless ‘death of email‘ articles frustrating, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

I find companies that don’t enable online communication very frustrating: I don’t want to talk to your representative (or anyone, for that matter): I don’t want you to try to sell me crap I don’t want, I don’t want to be called sir, and thanked every 5 minute for my call by someone in a remote call centre who doesn’t actually care. Most of all, I want to do stuff when I think of it, quickly and efficiently, be that whatever time or day of the week. If I want a chat, I’ll meet a friend in a pub, thanks.

This week has seen one organisation that are reluctant to handle email (an NHS department), but do so with a tone that suggests this is a bit too hard, and one that simply doesn’t respond (an insurance company), so now I’ll have to spend a lunchtime talking to people I don’t want to, in an open-plan office…

I realise I’m sounding like the stereotypical uncommunicative geek here, but people that know me in real life will (hopefully) confirm that I do like to talk, preferably in a pub. I do seem pretty phone-averse though: am I odd in this respect?

I’d be interested to hear any other thoughts on this, though I realise my data will be skewed here: people reading this are more likely to favour electronic communications.

Anyway: back to the death of email. This is widely predicted by a certain class of social media consultant (specifically, the ones that are full of shit: you may wish to peruse this article, as it prompted this post). Email is still the business ‘killer app’, the basic form of ID on the Internet, and the best way to get a wide range of information to a small number of recipients. For a good analogy, think of the ‘paperless office’ widely predicted not so long ago. It’s bullshit. Social media has it’s place, but it’s intrusive, disjointed, immature (technology wise), and in the control of US corporations to one degree or another.

My prediction: email will last another 30 years, at minimum, in a recognisable form: It’s existed in a recogniseable form already since around 1965. So will the written word, the printed word, and the telephone (despite the fact that landline use is declining, and teenagers seem to communicate entirely by SMS). Fax will probably die sooner, but it still has legal significance that email does not. Thoughts anyone?

11 Responses to “Communication Channels”

  1. species5618 Says:

    Your at queue position FOUR ….

    but seriously though, so many things you touched on here, drive me nuts
    and to add my communication rants

    i filled in a online form for physio a few months back, which resulted in a snail mail letter asking me to phone in to make an appointment…..

    joker.com insists on a FAX for some account changes, but have NO signature to compare yours to…..

    homebase insists on a utility bill to hire a rug doctor, but i don’t have any, it is all online, and a council tax letter is only valid for 6 months.

    phone a company up to query a letter they sent you and they use details on the letter to validate your ID

    People who use corporate IM, and expect you to respond instantly and fix the problem they emailed you 30 seconds before

    People who phone your mobile as your desk phone is engaged

    Dickheads who don’t know there own email address
    my hotmail account is full of conformation emails for a lee whitehead in cumbria and lee whitehhead in chester (tax office, o2, play, elc, wacky warehouse to name a few)

    I could go on,

    but has someone who works in a team of 10 and no two people are in the same office (or within 40 miles are each other) i find the phone a $deity send and a curse…

  2. species5618 Says:

    oh and shops,
    well PFY staff who dont even know what they sell in the shop !!!

  3. stymaster Says:

    Oddly enough, my NHS episode mentioned above was for physio.

    The whole confirmation letter/email thing is fraught, of course. We set up a new email server for a domain at work a few years ago. We sent all users note of the change, and when we moved, disabled accounts that weren’t used. A year or so laterI created myself an account (cjb@xxxxxx.net) for testing, and started getting tesco clubcard mail addressed to Claire B*****…..

    One of my wife’s colleagues has petended to be me and say “Yes, you may speak with my wife about this matter” so that she could chnage the direct debit on an account in my name. It’s an illusuion of security that is meerly an inconvenience and serves no purpose.

  4. species5618 Says:

    Following on from your last comment
    I got through the vodafone security as my dad,
    Got his phone unlocked, and ported out of vodafone without me asking my dad a single question

    When my dad hears “press 1 to ….” He presses the red buttton ……

  5. Willenhall Lad Says:

    I’m not so sure about your uncommunicativeness on the phone. When I phone, we’re usually on for a while but it depends upon what you have to say and if it’s interesting. I have the same problem with my other half; she talks such drivel at times that I switch off and now she’s convinced that I’m hard of hearing!

    What you allude to is what a lot of us feel about the state of the world at the moment and I agree with you about US corps etc. The US style of doing business has pervaded Britain to the extent it’s going against the grain of the culture of the people here and we’re quietly rebelling. I hate it myself as you well know.

    E-Mail has one thing that the public sector loves: a written trail of evidence. Anything else is dodging round the ability to record conversations and reply accurately, and people love accountability. This is why e-mail will never die as letters will never die. With a piece of paper in your hand, you have to respond. I’ve found this with advertising of late.

    Security is always a problem with the weak minded, as ably demonstrated by “Ben” from the Uni 10 years ago when posing as a hacker. Most security flaws are from within the organisation.

    Your experience with NHS is not surprising to me having worked there. But one thing is common and that is that IT skills are poor in this country, especially in management.

  6. Willenhall Lad Says:

    That first sentence doesn’t read very well does it? I think I got my first person confused with my third one! I meant to say that phone conversations in general can be interesting if you make them so.

    I am always cheered up talking to you on the phone but I understand what you mean when you talk to “sales” people. You can make a sport out of it though as I try and do by being as obstructive as possible.

  7. stymaster Says:

    Hmm, it depends. One point of course, is that if we’re talking on the phone, it’s either a tech question or arranging beer :-)

    I suppose that is what you were getting at: we phone for a purpose, therefore it’s interesting…

  8. George Roper Says:

    How long has the email facility been available now? I still come across people who don’t understand the format of an email address.
    If a company wants to contact me by email I give them an address such as them@mydomain.whatever (depending on which of my domains I use). It might be someone like Virgin and I give them virginmedia@mydomain.whatever, this makes it easier to sort incoming but also to trace any spam. As it happens I’ve only had one instance in a number of years where an email address has been passed on and I ripped into the originating company with some gusto.
    Back to my first statement though, when I give them ‘theircompanyname@mydomain.etc’ they tell me that can’t be right, or I’m not allowed to do that. Maybe I’m not allowed to, maybe they could say it would be misleading to others (although I can’t see how if they are the only users of that particular email address. I don’t know.

  9. Willenhall Lad Says:

    I phone my Dad nearly every day on the basis it’s business. We rarely chat about trivia whereas speaking to my Mom usually ends up with the family gossip or a moan about something or other. But it is a comfort to hear a voice on the end – if you are lonely or have been you’ll understand.

    The other half will though, talk for hours to her family and friends about I don’t know what! :-)

  10. stymaster Says:

    10 Reasons to avoid talking on the phone

  11. Willenhall Lad Says:

    Yep – all of them!


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