As my phone rings for the upteenth time this morning, I grumble to myself silently. It's good to be a popular guy, somebody whom a lot of folks want to call and ask questions of. But, it's a real time suck. Sometimes I feel like it keeps me from getting "real work" done. People will occasionally go outside of the established procedure and call me directly, looking to resolve an issue as quickly as possible. I like to help, and I do when I can. But, there's only one of me, and a lot of people have my phone number.
And then it dawns on me; I'm grumbling about something I myself am guilty of.
And that's not really because this ISP's process is broken or something. It's just that sometimes you hit a road block and don't know how to proceed. Or you end up with a problem that seems like a square peg trying to fit into the round hole of the online support request form. And sometimes it's because I just didn't think the problem through before reaching out.
And you know, it kills me that I just did it again, this morning. So now I'm thinking about how to resolve stuff without relying on the personal contact. Because, seriously, you do not need personal contacts to send mail to an ISP successfully. If you do, then your business model is broken.
My goal going forward is this: I will not reach out to an individual person at an ISP more than once every two months or so, if I can at all help it. If I'm contacting them more than that, then something is broken, and that broken something is probably on my side of things. All of the big ISPs have published processes that work fine for almost any eventuality. That's why those processes exist, to help people sending mail work through any issues observed.
If you reach out to your contacts too often, you're going to use them up. Burn through them. They're going to get tired of helping you out. They need to be saved for when something is REALLY broken – when there's an actual emergency; flames coming out of the server. Actual delivery emergencies are extremely rare.
I had somebody tell me something spectacularly incorrect recently: "This is a relationship business," it was proclaimed to me. "It's all about who you know." I couldn't disagree more. Send mail people want and clean up after yourself, and emergencies needing a personal touch are going to be few and far between. If you're finding that this isn't the case, then pardon me, but you're doing something wrong.
Now, if you'll excuse me, my phone is ringing.
(Edited to add: If your name is Barry and you need a t-shirt, maybe this is the shirt for you.)