Is anybody still listening?

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I am told, although I never met her, that my late mother-in-law had an uncanny ability to connect with strangers by simply using her trusty rotary dial telephone. She had Polio and despite limited use of her legs and arms she was able to call entertainment companies, writers, politicians, corporations and sports team front offices to ask for assistance or make a request.

 

For example, when her son wanted a particular book and there wasn’t an Amazon or B&N.com to rely upon, she found the phone number to reach the author and arranged for him to sign a purchased copy for her son. She landed tickets for numerous tapings of Wonderama (a popular kids show originating in the 1950's) and asked the New York Mets for sports equipment for the Cub Scout team. All done with tenacity and a dial tone. 

 

Today, when I want to reach out to a firm with a question, compliment or complaint there may be the omnipresent and all-reaching Internet — but many firms hide behind their electronic web walls. Avoiding the expense of inbound phone calls, companies encourage consumers to fill out an online form resulting in answers that are often automatic and irrelevant to the questions posed. Many firms won’t identify an executive’s mailing address, email address or phone extension and will not let an unknown, unauthorized person leave a voicemail that that probably wouldn't be answered anyway.

 

Sure it’s a different time than when my mother-in-law called organizations in 1965. People are suspicious, cautious and not as free to trust. But despite more digital footprints and a world that’s supposed to be wired to connect us all, there is even less access and less ways to relate — one individual to another.

 

In fact, one of the worst offenders is human resources. Want a job in 2018? It’s now a matter of algorithms and the right terms on your resume and electronic application to get noticed.  There’s no person on the other side of a desk. There’s no desk. No way to declare one’s passion, express one’s character or plea for an opportunity if the interviewer is a bot. I'm tired of impersonal email responses — or worse — no email responses at all.

 

What would my mother-in-law have done if she had the chance to play in this electronic playground of computers, the Internet and smartphones? I have little doubt given her understanding of human nature that she would have used the web strategically to gather intelligence but go straight to her landline phone to get a living, breathing person on the phone to really talk with her.

A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, LIU Post and SUNY Old Westbury.