Sunday, April 27, 2014

Oh Sh##, my mute button was off?

I love that commercial with the girl who scores points with her colleagues by doing an impression of the client while the client is muted… “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…”  I think we all have those clients and what is said and done while errant clients are on mute can be hilarious.  And depending on who it happens to, what is said and done when someone thinks they are on mute can be even funnier.

Sure enough I had another mute button misfire at work.  I was on a national training call and my 15 year old son had arrived home from school famished and was raiding the kitchen for food.  I thought I'd add some harassment so I yelled out, “Hey, Jabber, how about bringing your father some ice cream?”  Sure enough shortly following my query, a moderator chimed in, “someone out there has an open mike”.  (Ugh, who might that that be?)  Needless to say, I scurried to mute my phone.

Sadly, this wasn't my worst encounter bobbling the mute toggle.  A year or two back, I was once again on a National call and an email came in that immediately pushed my blood pressure up a few points.  Believing I was the only one in the office (and also believing that my phone was on mute), I let out a string of profanities only to hear the speaker who was announcing some upcoming change relate, “Oh come on now, it’s not that bad.”

Conversely, I have had the opposite experience as well where I have verbally articulated what I thought was an intelligent response only to hear nothing from my audience.  Eventually, someone catches on (either them or I) and aside from the embarrassment, there is not a great harm done by speaking with the mute button on.  You simply may feel silly for a second, but repeat the original message a second time with the mute button off so that you can be heard.

I know I am not alone in the business world.  One of the big bosses that I previously worked with related how he had been on a call with some power brokers from DC and thinking he was on mute, proceeded to remark to the local audience, “that is the stupidest idea I've ever heard.”  Unfortunately for him, they knew exactly who he was and let him know clearly that his comment was not appreciated.  From that day forward he had the contortions required to mute the phone carefully written out and he would also pound the desk next to the phone to verify that the mute was on.

This story brings me to my main point – with all the whiz bang technology out there, why do mute buttons and muting a phone need to be so complicated?  Shouldn't you be able to purchase a phone that has a simple mute button?  So I ran a Google Search, “phone with prominent mute button” to see what would result.  While it may sound shocking, even Google results didn’t lead me to the perfect phone with a prominent mute button.  On the bright side, I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my earlier posts show up in the Google results – way to go MTQ!

Attention phone manufacturers, the next big thing isn't complex; it’s simple… just a decent, easy to use and prominent mute button.  Please eliminate these convoluted steps to mute the phone.  No, I don’t want to press * or #-anything.  For home phones, mute should be a dedicated button that it is lit red when on and green when off.  Similarly, smartphone manufacturers… get on board, I’m sure you can program something on those nice modern screens – perhaps “Muted” in bold red when muted and a flavor of green for live mike.

And by the way Jabber never did show up with that ice cream.