Friday, June 27, 2003

Really wrong numbers

Got time for just a little, teeny rant? Oooh, please....

One of my minor tasks for the day was ordering some tutorial software. When I visited the tutorial company's site today, I couldn't find any information about the product's compatibility with the operating system I use (Mac OS X). I decided to call and ask before purchasing online. That's when I discovered that these folks, who you'd hope would know something about user interface and usability, provide one of those unspeakably stupid phone numbers with their company name instead of numbers. Until I can dial from my keyboard (and type CONAME) few things are as infuriating as taking the phone with the keypad away from my ear and searching around in the 4 point type as I translate CONAME into numbers.

Phone numbers that are names make sense only in a very few circumstances. An example might be a local number with local exchange prefix, followed by a four-letter word: 321-WORK for a local jobline, perhaps. The prefix is already well-known, and the name makes sense. Plus it's a number a job seeker might be calling repeated over a period of weeks, and a number you might want to remember to tell a friend.

But how often do you call a company that sells a couple of software packages? Would you remember the unusual toll-free prefix they use (1-866 instead of 1-800)? Would you remember that you must then insert a 6 in front of CONAME? Of course not.

For this inanity we can thank some bozo in their marketing department who thought it would be cool to have a phone number that is a name. This is probably the same person who wrote the copy touting the products' features and benefits at mind-numbing length on the site without ever mentioning what operating systems the product runs on. Of course, this company's Website is utterly devoid of even the most rudimentary search function.

All this hasn't stopped me from trying to buy their product. What probably will stop me is what happened after I decoded and dialed their coyly named phone number: I got a recording from a bored-sounding woman asking me to leave my name and number and they'd get back to me. Yep, that's real effective sales. (I still haven't heard back from them.) Perhaps they should put their creative marketing genius to work--answering the phone.

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