Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dumb Things Businessmen Do - Lesson 1: Voice Mail

I was thinking about starting a sub-series in this blog for dumb stuff that I see/hear that foreign businessmen do in Japan. Some of this stuff is amazing. But, nah, there'd be no end to it.

They say the manners and common sense of people are getting worse as the years go by, and I agree... But recently I have actually experienced some especially dumb things foreign businessmen are doing in Japan. Here's two examples:

I call up a guy up on the telephone to talk to him about business... He needs advice and asked for my help. Not being the kind of guy to say "No!" to someone asking for help, I called him back.

The phone rang and rang. I was thinking, "Oh? he isn't there." I was just about to hang up when it clicked and the robot-lady said, "Connecting to the voice mail system."

"Oh, well," I thought, "I guess I'll leave a message." 

I usually hate leaving messages because, nowadays, your number shows up on the receivers telephone so, you'd think they'd call you back, especially if they are in any kind of sales (and in today's market, who isn't in sales?). I also don't like to leave messages since I think it is faster for me to call back (as well as thinking that my business associates should be treated with respect) and, well frankly speaking, I hate listening to some of the dumb messages people leave on their answering services. You know, long and boring ones that take more than 20 seconds to get through? Need an example?

Here's silly example #1: Ones that are spoken very slowly and say stuff like, 

"Hi this is so-and-so. I... can't... take... your.... call... right.... now.... but.... if... you... leave... your... name... and... number... and a message... and... what time you called, as well as the best... time... to... call... back, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you. Please leave your message after the tone." 

Here's silly example #2 (even worse than #1): 

"Hi this is so-and-so. I... can't... take... your.... call... right.... now.... but.... if... you... leave... your... name... and... number... and a message... and... what time you called, as well as the best... time... to... call... back, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you. Please leave your message after the tone." Sounds the same as #1? Nope. Because then they'll repeat the same thing in Japanese too!

Isn't that unnerving? What a waste of time! I know you can't take my call right now otherwise I'd be talking to you and not your machine! Instead of that, how about an 4-second, "So-and-so here. Please leave your name and number and a brief message and I'll get back to you"?

Time is important. Time is the only nonrenewable resource. Don't waste your time and certainly don't waste mine.... Especially don't waste the time of business and potential business relations.

But I digress... Back to my story. I called the guy up and the, "Connecting to the voice mail system" message came on. I listened to the message and was ready to leave a very short, "This is Mike Rogers. Please call when you have time" message. But I couldn't. I was floored that this person had an even dumber and more ridiculous message than the typical example I gave you above. This person's message was:

"Hi! I'm so-and-so, sorry I can't take your phone call right now. Please call again later."

What!? This person just costs me ¥20 calling them to hear a message that they can't answer the phone and they won't take a message? Is that anyway to run a business? If that's what they are going to do then turn of the phone answering machine and save people ¥20. Think about what you are doing! If I were a potential customer, do you think I'd ever call them again? No way.

This is not just a question of ¥20! This is a question about common sense. Do I want to do business with someone who is so lacking in common sense? Probably not. 

Money is money. Money is renewable. Time is not.

Good businesses think about accommodating their clients and potential clients. This is an absolute no-no and I hope that these people stop this foolish nonsense and get serious.

Never forget, in Japan, the customer is not always right. In Japan, the customer is God. 

I wonder if God appreciates having time wasted in telephone calls... I certainly don't and I don't like to have to pay extra to do it. 

I'm sure potential clients would agree.


Andrew Joseph said...

Very Good, Mike.
I'd like more examples, please.

Anonymous said...

20 yen for a call? Yikes! I'm surprised there isn't a Japanese Vonage or Google Voice that is much cheaper.

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