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Work Snippets - Qualified Perceptions
Work Snippets
  • I've felt compelled to switch from answering the phone as "Hello, Athena User Accounts" to "Hello, Athena User Accounts, this is Laura" because of an increasing number of people who simply wait in silence after I answer the phone, assuming that I am an answering machine or a phone tree. When I eventually say "Hello? Hello?" they assure me that I sound just like an automated answering thing. (Now, after answering the phone the same way for years, I can see how I'd get fairly practiced at this, but last week had an unacceptably high number of these calls).
  • I sent out the traditional seven hundred emails to sponsors regarding their guests yesterday (which caused the barracudas to decide I was a Spammer, but that's another story). There are far too many people who answer the question of "Would you like to continue sponsoring this account, or would you like it to be deactivated in the next round of deactivations in January of 2007?" with "Yes, I would like to continue sponsoring this account until January of 2007".
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From: readsalot Date: October 17th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's very odd--answering machines and phone trees usually offer some kind of prompt, and I'd think that since you don't, they'd realize that you're not.

I've rarely gotten useful responses from emails that offer an A or B choice. I get much better information when I say, "I'm going to do A. If you think that's a bad idea, you have until tomorrow to let me know." I then wait until the day after tomorrow, which gives them a little extra grace. Giving people too much time to respond means that they put it off and then never do it.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 17th, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Given that I sent out about 800 of these emails, I would dearly hope they didn't all answer by tomorrow! (But the response rate is pretty good, nevertheless.)

In any event, I'm fine with people who fail to answer - then I just eventually mark their guests as doomed, with a comment that the sponsor didn't answer. If the guest calls to complain, it's easy enough to say "we sent your sponsor email back in October, but they didn't answer us" and then the guest can go and poke the sponsor on their own.

It's the people who answer "Yes, A and B are good" that baffle me. :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 17th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Though, looking at my wording again, it looks like I'm already following your advice. Most people just take it as an A or B choice (and in my head, that's what it is).

"Please let us know if you would like to continue sponsoring one or
more of these accounts; otherwise, they will be slated for deletion
during the next round of account deactivations, which will take place
during January of 2007."
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: October 17th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps if you left off the last phrase it would be more clear. Sure if you leave it off it can sound as if the accounts are doomed and may disappear at any moment, but that may not be a bad thing. After all, if they don't respond then the accounts are doomed, just not for a while. Sometimes less information is better. Of course you may not have any control over the wording.

If you really want them to know how long the accounts hang around, you could put it in a footnote at the bottom. Then they have the info, but it looks less like an A or B choice.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 17th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't used to say when deactivation happened, but that actually exacerbates the tendency of people to send mail saying things like "Yes! I do want to keep the account! We need it for at least another month!"

(Not to mention, the people who think I mean "tomorrow" and fly into a temper that this is all being dropped on them at short notice. Those are the people that I really want to avoid provoking; the ones who give me somewhat confusing but cheerful answers are much less of a problem).
jcgbigler From: jcgbigler Date: October 17th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hate to say this, but I think the semicolon may be part of the problem. A lot of people need short sentences. The other thing I'd do is to put the deactivation part first. That way, if they're fine with it, they'll stop reading right there. If they're not, they have incentive to keep reading. Maybe something like:

"These accounts are scheduled to be deactivated in January of 2007. If you would like any of these accounts to remain active after January 2007, please let us know which ones you want to continue to sponsor."
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 18th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're probably right about the semicolon; I'll try and chop that up a bit more. (And heaven knows there are enough people who totally fail to read more than the first line of anything, no matter what it is, so the important content really needs to go there..,.)

But I don't want the people who can't read long sentences to decide that the take-home message is "these accounts are going away!" because in many cases, that is the Very Wrong Thing to happen, and looking like I'm threatening to do the Wrong Thing will upset them. :)
countertorque From: countertorque Date: October 18th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Adding "this is Laura" is correct. By answering "Athena User Accounts" I think you're implying that this is a common phone that could be answered by a number of people. The person calling in then has no idea if firstfrost, the person they've already spoken to, is on the other end or if it's someone new, requiring them to start all over with their problem.

You should also be aware that if you answer the phone 5000 times, you'll probably start saying "Athena User Accounts" quickly and if you aren't careful it'll become unintelligble. In my last job, everyone was in the habit of answering the phone "goodafternoonussbaltimorethisisanonsecurelinelieutenantcountertorquespeakinghowcanihelpyou," which became it's own code language that outsiders couldn't understand.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 18th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm actually pretty careful to not say it quickly - at least one of the people who told me I sounded like an answering machine was quite clear that it was a compliment ("you have such a pleasant friendly voice, I assumed it couldn't be a real person" or something like that). Of course, there have been the couple of people who heard it as "Athena User Account?" and then stammered out their username, but as far as not-quite-clear goes, I think that's pretty good.

(One reason I had avoided "this is Laura" for so long is because I hate calling somewhere and listening to a big long spiel before I can say anything. "Good morning, you have reached Athena User Accounts, part of MIT's IS&T department. This is Laura speaking. Calls may be recorded for our quality assurance. How may I direct your call?". But I suppose three more words won't get all the way there.)
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