When Tech Breaks Down. What To Do To Make Sure Your Message Gets Through

Listening to oldies is like taking a peek into a time capsule.

From the tech perspective, I’ll listen to a song like that old Fifth Dimension classic “Games People Play,” and think how much shorter that song would have been if they had cell phones back in the 1960s.

The song is a duet about a guy and a girl mis-communicating about a date. He shows up, and she’s not there, while she’s at home bored, having forgotten she had a date. The song goes back and forth with them crossing lines, until in the final verse, they run into each other on the street. Happy ending.

Of course, with cell phones, email and texting, that wouldn’t likely happen, unless of course she gave him a fake phone number because he was borderline creepy. That technology has become such an intractable part of our lives, we not only depend on it — we take it for granted that it will always function the way we need it to.

But what happens when it doesn’t?

When something as critical as email or cell technology fails, it can do more than just screw up a date with the hottie from accounting — it can cripple an enterprise. The problem is, you won’t always know when your email is down. Many services are good about sending bounce-back messages and notices, but what happens when that fails? What if you’re sending emails out to people, and the critical ones aren’t being received?

Now, the dance ensues. You send out a mission critical, time sensitive email to a client. The client doesn’t respond on day one or day two or day three. You don’t want to be a pest, but you also don’t want to let the communication go untended. So, what do you do? Many people leave it alone, while others go the pest route — with an equal chance of negative outcomes either way.

So, when you have a critical communication going out, here are a few ways to ensure the message is received:

1) Include a return receipt — Many email services provide an option for you to get a receipt when the email is opened. This is a good function, but it doesn’t always work. When the email is opened by the recipient, many return receipt functions provide the recipient the choice of alerting you to the fact they’ve opened the email, or denying the receipt. So, this only works when someone ISN’T trying to avoid you. Use it, but don’t depend solely on it to solve the problem.

2) Ask for a non-email response — If the email is critical, and you absolutely have to know it was received, ask for the recipient to text you or call you to indicate they’ve received it. You have better odds of getting a response that way, because it’s highly unlikely that both your email AND your phone will be dysfunctional at the same time. If it is, you need to see a psychic. If you don’t get a call, be proactive and call a day later to check on the status. Your request to call that went unanswered gives you the right to do so without seeming like a pest.

3) Copy the world — Critical emails are likely copied to someone, so copy everyone who is appropriate, and then check with your own team members to see if they received it. If they did, it’s more likely your client did, as well.

None of these tips are 100 percent bulletproof, but when used together, you have a reasonably high chance of avoiding being the guy in the song sitting at a coffee shop for a date who doesn’t show. Business-wise, I mean.

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