Your Robocall Needs Work

Scott McLeod is celebrating the 8th anniversary of his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, with Leadership Day 2014. Last year I contributed a post on school and district websites, Your Website Needs Work.

I know that there are a lot of interesting discussions to be had about technology in the classroom, but as a parent, I would urge school administrators–as technology leaders in their buildings and districts–to allocate some time to thinking about how technology can be used to facilitate (or hamper!) communication with parents and the broader community.

Dear School Administrator,

Last night, for the first time since my child has been enrolled in your school, I hung up on a robocall from you. I hated to do it, but it was the third time in a week that you had called to remind me about the ice cream social and experienced technical difficulties with recording or transmitting your message. Specifically, part way through your message, the message began again at the greeting. Earlier in the week, I listened to your message restart twice(!) so that I could hear it all the way to the end. But last night, I’d had enough and suspected that there was no new information I would miss out on if I hung up.

I am genuinely sorry that it has come to this, that your number popping up on my caller-id screen is starting to leave me with the same feeling of dread with which I face calls from telemarketers and well-meaning campaign volunteers reminding me to get out and vote.

So I want you to know that my child has had a great experience at your school and we are looking forward to another great school year, which is another way of saying that we have positive feelings about you and your school and we want to keep it that way! Improving your robocall (and other technology-facilitated communication) skills should be on your to-do list this year, and here’s why: because my child is doing well at your school (and because I use Twitter but not Facebook and you use Facebook but not Twitter!), robocalls are the only communication I have ever had from you.

Even before the recent technical difficulties, your robocalls were overly long and overly frequent (though I admit, my perspective on this may have been colored by the sheer number of weather-related delays, early outs, and cancellations we had this past school year).

The length, quality, and frequency of robocalls seems like an ideal topic to take up with your PLN (you do have one, don’t you?). Perhaps they would be willing to listen to a few of your recordings and give you constructive feedback on how they might be improved. From my perspective, I will offer that while I appreciate your efforts to sound warm, friendly, and welcoming, that robocalls should probably be approached like all other voice mail messages–because this is essentially what they are–so please, be short and to the point.

Perhaps they would also be willing to share how often and for what purposes they find it effective to use robocalls to communicate with parents.

Perhaps, they could offer other suggestions for using technology to communicate with parents, like effective use of e-mail and Twitter, neither of which you use to communicate with me. (Hint: you can use Twitter to post links to the school’s Facebook page and e-mail is good for longer, more detailed messages).

Don’t overlook teacher-librarians, either, if you don’t have any in your PLN. The ones in our district are tech-savvy and probably could offer some suggestions for improving your technology-facilitated communication with parents–I know, because I follow several of them on Twitter!

Finally, without delay, please talk to someone to resolve your technical difficulties with robocalling before you record your next message. Then I can look forward to answering my phone to find out from you what’s going on at school.

Sincerely, Karen W

Follow Leadership Day 2014 on Twitter at #leadershipday14

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2 thoughts on “Your Robocall Needs Work

  1. Eric D. Johnson

    Agreed that the robocalls need work, and that their technical glitches and repetition are frustrating. But when advocating for increased reliance on social media and email to communicate, please keep in mind that not every parent in this district has easy and regular internet access. 78% of the kids at my kid’s school are on free and reduced lunch. A good number of those families don’t have the kind of technological access that its easy for us to take for granted, and we’ve found that phone calls are the most reliable way to reach people for our school events. I’d rather that some middle class parents like myself get annoyed than to have some parents not get the message at all.

    Reply
    1. Karen W Post author

      Eric, I see that in editing I deleted a sentence I had written about appreciating that not every parent has easy access to technology and that robocalls are an important part of reaching all parents. Thanks for raising that issue here.

      I will say that I think parents who rely on robocalls deserve messages that are respectful of their time and need for information. I think school administrators can be friendly but still get to the point so important information doesn’t get lost in the rambling. I also think that they have to pay attention to the technical glitches particularly for those parents who rely exclusively on robocalls. If I hang up in annoyance or can’t understand a garbled recording, I’ve probably already found the information somewhere else if I needed it.

      Reply

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