Big business’s worst invention

Do Not EnterI’m busy as hell today, but I have to pause for a rant. People, really. Is there anything worse for those wishing to do business with business than the answering machine, or worse, elaborate voice mail forwarding, routing and “leave a message” systems? Where did we get the idea that jerking people around like this was smart business? Because, I’ve got news for you, it’s the worst thing ever to happen to the business world, and it’s all in the name of saving a buck. It has grown, however, from a cost-saving mechanism to one where businesses can control with whom they have contact. You don’t “call” a business anymore; you leave a message, so that they can get back to you at THEIR convenience, if ever.

This “leave us alone” attitude has also shifted to the Web, where obtaining a real email address that somebody might actually see requires the investigative skills of a reporter. I suppose we have spam to blame for this, but that’s no excuse for isolating yourself from people who’d like to contact you.

Communication with most American businesses today is a one-way street, from them to us.

I just spent 30 minutes trying to do somebody a favor, and I’ve been thwarted at every turn. This company has isolated itself from its customers, and the ridiculous thing is that I’m sure they don’t think so.

We have taken it for granted as a culture that we and we alone — business or otherwise — are masters of our own communications portals. I’m not convinced this is a good thing.


  1. Right…absolutely one of the great mysteries of modern marketing. The incredible $ spent on customer acquisition, followed by immediately treating the acquired customer like dirt. I assume though this is all incorporated into the CRM algorithms… “we can piss off customers to x degree, at which point only y (small)% will actually go to the trouble of dropping us. The cost savings of underserving the mass of remaining customers poorly = z, which yields 5x greater ROI than we would get by providng good service to all in the interest of holding on to the y’s.

    This is why most people hate their phone and cable companies, banks, etc.

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