Getting impersonal

Colin Browne looks at gathering accurate reseller information from the market and says that removing the face-to-face element helps.

  • E-Mail
By  Colin Browne Published  August 31, 2000

The Internet is like a double-edged sword when it comes to gathering information.

On the plus side its relative anonymity enables you to be incredibly blunt and honest.

On the down side, its relative anonymity enables you to be incredibly blunt and honest.

This is new to me, and I think I like it.

I remember distinctly the dark days of 1995 and 1996 when, in gathering information for our CRN numbers page (now re-born as Hard Facts for CRN September), we had to phone resellers blind and ask them probing questions. I am sure you can guess how easy that was to achieve.

It took days to make all the phone calls, most of which had to be made several times in order to catch the right person.

Accurate Information

Then came the job of trying to convince them that they should share their information with us, which was equally as arduous. But even when that task was completed, we had no way of knowing whether or not the information was completely accurate—it always seemed to paint an eerily upbeat picture of the market, even when the market decidedly was not.

Today, that has changed.

I email out a spot poll to 3,000 names and get responses back. It is instant, and because there is no personal interface, respondents are willing to admit that their sales are down, that they buy through unauthorised channels and that they think there should be competition in the ISP space.

We never used to get that on the phone. Removing the personal interactivity works.

By the same token however, the Web’s impersonal nature gives people the impression that because they are writing something in electronic format, they can say whatever they want, no matter how rude or unprofessional. I can’t imagine these things would have been said to my face, or even over the phone.

An interesting point is that when those criticising emails include a contact phone number, and I phone them back, or respond to their email, almost without fail, I get an apology, or a retraction of some or all of the complaint.

Impersonal Medium

It isn’t that the complaint is unjustified. It is just that the tone that was used would never have been employed if there wasn’t such an impersonal medium across which to deliver it.

That is not a criticism of the person sending the email by the way; I am certainly guilty of ‘flaming’ people from time to time.

But it is a criticism of the thoughtlessness with which we conduct our correspondence today, and specifically so in this Middle East market where we claim that face-to-face is the best way to do business.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code