Wednesday July 16 was a big day for The Phone Lady. In addition to launching a new website (courtesy of the amazing team at Kohoot Media, led by the fabulous creative mind of Jay Hiltz), I changed servers and finally embraced my dot com-ness. (You can still reach me through the .ca email and url.)
There had been a few delays launching The Phone Lady’s new look and we were all excited when the finish line appeared. This contributed to what happened next. The “go” button was pressed on July 16 … and I went without email until late in the day Friday July 18. Yikes!
Without boring you with too many details, here’s a quick explanation of what happened: “Name server changes usually take 24 to 48 hours to fully start working. This period, called propagation, is the projected length of time it takes for root name servers and cache records across the entire web to be updated with your website’s DNS information.”
I knew this somewhere at the back of my mind, as did the team at Kohoot, but we let excitement and a desire to go from “to do” to “to done” get the better of us. (Note to self: launch new websites, especially those on new servers, on the weekend.)
But the experience revealed something interesting – a communication gap we are ignoring.
On an average business day I’ll receive anywhere from 100 to 200 emails. During this 48-hour propagation period all those emails received an error notice saying their message to The Phone Lady was undeliverable. Period. They weren’t re-directed anywhere, or saved in the sender’s outbox, or resent again after the 48-hour period. They are gone, gone, gone.
Now what’s interesting is … only 3 people reached out through different mediums (phone, Twitter) to say they were having trouble reaching me. That means that somewhere between 197 and 397 people shrugged their shoulders and gave up. Uh oh. This is a problem for all of us.
It made me think about TBC (Time Before Computers) when I would call a business and receive an “out of service” message. Did I just give up? No, definitely not. I would always dial the number a second and sometimes a third time, to verify I hadn’t mis-dialled. Then I would put the number aside and try again, perhaps the next day or in a few days. I knew it was possible that weather or other issues could interrupt phone communication; that it didn’t necessarily mean the company had moved or was out of business. If the problem persisted I would eventually call the operator (how strange does that sound!) and see if there was a new number listed.
I experienced a ridiculous amount of stress during the 48 hours (as did the team at Kohoot). For me it was about judgement, about what people were thinking when they received that error message. It’s not that I thought I was missing out on a mega-contract, or that clients would start cancelling workshops. No, the stress was all about people judging me harshly and walking away from communicating with me.
Turns out some of that stress was justified. I still don’t know who all tried to reach me those two days. Perhaps there is a potential client out there that thinks I’m out of business. And I’ve had at least one conversation that contained disdain that I would allow this to happen at all. Sigh.
So what can we do? First, we need to support each other better. This week I received two “undeliverable” error messages and I called the companies involved immediately. Second, we need to stop acting like email is our only means of contact. Not only do we have telephones, but we have social media channels that allow us to stay connected. And there are probably other things we can do. What are your thoughts? It would be great if you’d share them by commenting on this post.
In the end, I have a lovely new website that will continue to evolve in the weeks and months ahead. If you do have time to visit and want to share your comments, I’d love to hear them. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank Frances Leary and Kris Booth of Wired Flare who are responsible for the creation of these three The Phone Lady videos:
Enjoy your phonework everyone!