Too Much Contact

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.

There's a guy at an ISP. Let's call him, uh, Barry or something. I've been calling and emailing Barry quite a bit these past few weeks, about multiple issues with multiple clients and employers. I'm probably driving him nuts. And helping people like me is not really his day job, though he is always nice about it. Sometimes it takes him a while to get back to me, and I suspect that's because there are a lot of other people out there, who, like me, email him for assistance way too often.

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.)


  1. As a former "Barry", I completely agree with everything you've said here. Say it louder!

  2. Hear, hear.

    -Another Barry.

  3. 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.

    While I agree with the conclusion you offered after this, I think this bit is wrong. It is a relationship business. There will be times when you will need to 'know a guy'. However, no small measure of success is how little you need to use those contacts.

    Sure, there will be occasional instances when you lack an important piece of data that only somebody else can provide. And when that happens, being able to pick up the phone is invaluable. However, the overwhelming majority of the time, you ought to be able to solve that problem without the phone.

  4. Yeah, but you've been at the same conferences where the spammers and edge case guys try to buy everybody drinks. It doesn't get their mail to the inbox like they wish it would.

    Maybe once upon a time, there was some modest opportunity to do so, but that does not exist anymore. Getting to know the ISP people gives me a chance for them to better observe me, my clients, and our practices. It doesn't create an opportunity to get bad mail to the inbox because of the relationship.

    Relationship doesn't trump reputation. Relationship may provide more insight into reputation, but it doesn't magically open any doors to delivery.

  5. I know a guy who bought another guy a 'woman of loose virtue' at one of those conferences, except it was a man in a dress of ill repute.

    And then he pulled some stuff at his place of work trying to get some of the first guys email past the email filters and got caught and left the company soon after.

    So sometimes it works, only not the way you'd expect.


Comments policy: Al is always right. Kidding, mostly. Be polite, please and thank you.