Friday, August 08, 2014

Inventing the Caller ID of the Future

"Caller ID should be more detailed," said my Facebook friend, Susan A. "'Wants help moving,' 'Going to whine,' 'Will ask to borrow money.'"

I told her I was stealing the idea, and started thinking what this could mean for people who need to know why someone is calling them. My wife and I got rid of our home landline about 10 years ago, since the only people who ever called us on it were telemarketers. We saw no reason to spend 40 bucks a month so telemarketers could call us at dinnertime only to be hung up on five seconds later.

The only thing I miss about a real telephone is being able to slam it down on tele-pests, hoping the percussive blast would rupture an eardrum, or rattle their brains enough so that they rethought their entire life plan. There's no satisfying way to stab a smartphone button with your finger and have it make the same explosive smash as a solid handset made with high-impact plastic.

So what if we could create this new caller ID that would measure your caller's true intention for calling, or better yet, tell you the hidden reason for their call? We could call it "caller QT," as in "keep it on the Q.T." The term Q.T. possibly comes from 19th century England, and means "keep it quiet." Since many people already want to block caller ID so no one know who's calling, our new caller QT system can bypass that and tell us why they want to bother us.

Let's say you're a parent of a teenage daughter, and the phone rings 20 minutes before curfew. In the old days you would have to argue with her about why she needed to be there on time, even though she and Rachel were having a great time together, before you finally reluctantly agreed that one more hour would be fine.

The new caller QT would tell you why she's calling. "Not really at Rachel's. I'm with my boyfriend, Tommy."

Then you can just answer the phone without having to listen to her lie about her whereabouts: "Tell Tommy to bring you home right now" hang up, and shout "Boom, busted!" Think of the arguments it would prevent if you could just shut that down immediately.

Or imagine you're leaving work a couple hours early on a Friday, and you get a call from your boss. In the old days, you had to answer it to see what she needed. Turns out, she needed your help with a project, and you couldn't leave.

Now with the caller QT, the message will tell you not to answer: "Going to ask you to come in early tomorrow to finish these TPS reports, because I have tickets to Robin Thicke." This tells you that you shouldn't answer the phone, and accidentally drop it. In front of a semi. From a bridge.

Similarly, when a co-worker calls, the caller QT can tell you, "Wants to remind you of your report for the committee meeting. You know, the one you've skipped for the last three weeks." You know you can safely ignore that one, since your co-worker is an overachieving bossy pants who really just needs to climb off your back.

With the new caller QT, you can know what kind of mood your mom is in. (Hint, she's not happy because you haven't called her in two weeks.) You know why your pretentious sister-in-law is calling. ("Can you watch the kids? Stephen and I want to get away for a three-day weekend because baby Molly has colic and Atticus may be coming down with chicken pox.)

And it's great for knowing why sales people are calling. The caller QT would tell you whether "you need this," "you don't need this," or "this guy won't stop talking just because you say no, and you'll end up shouting at him and slamming the phone down, which is bad for your blood pressure, and your wife is going to ask you tonight if you remembered to take your pill this morning and won't give it a moment's rest because you forgot, which will raise your blood pressure again and she'll end up screaming at you 'YOU NEED TO STAY CALM! THE DOCTOR SAID STRESS IS BAD FOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE!' like a hyperactive Edith Bunker."

Of course, this has to be a secret device. We can't let everyone have a caller QT, otherwise, my friends might know why I'm calling them: "Feeling bored today at the office by himself and is hoping you'll go to lunch with him so he's not sad and depressed by the end of the day."


Photo credit: Dan Dickinson (Flickr, Creative Commons

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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