Fax Machines: I Hate You
urrrr EEEE urrr NNNGGGG CRRRRcrrrr KEEEEEEE grrr nnnnnng... The classic song that reminds us of furrowed eyebrows accompanying questions like "Is that an 'r' or a 'v'?'", "Is this page supposed to be blank?" and "How do I refill the toner?" Fax machines have been a personal enemy of mine since the '90s. It was often the root of delays, mistakes, and miscommunications on important projects I worked on over the years. Whether you're a sales rep using fax machines to fax in your orders to your customer service team after a busy day on the road or you're receiving faxes in the back office, the following list probably strikes a particularly painful chord.
Why the Fax Order Form & Fax Machines Suck
The dreaded cover sheet
Depending on your fax machine set up, a cover sheet template might be available to you. If you're going rogue, it might not, and you're forced to use a random piece of scrap paper you've found in the trash. Whether or not you need a cover sheet at all is likely a product of your company's specific process- hopefully they have mercy on you and don't require it.
They waste time and money
After a long day meeting with customers in the field, the last thing you want to do is go looking for a fax machine to transmit orders to your customer service team. And in an internet era, being charged per sheet of paper at a hotel or Kinko's (and really using paper at all) is old-school and pointless.
To dial 9 or not to dial 9...
...that is the question. Seriously, can't there be some kind of pardon by the fax machine gods that just lets us dial the stupid phone number without having to be aware of the dial-out extension of the business, hotel, company you are sending the thing from? Add in whether the number is long distance, whether you need to use a 1, and all the iterations that this entails with your potential initial '9', and it's time to freak out. Chances are you've been scarred having to guess the dial-out logic and getting it wrong 3 times before it finally sends.
Face-up or face-down?
Fax machine gods - calling on you again. Why can't you just decide one way or another whether the papers need to be face down or up? Maybe it's just a sick way of keeping our motor skills sharp.
The busy signal
Busy signals...with modern day cell phones and cutting edge technology like call-waiting (yes, that was sarcastic), we don't hear much of them anymore. But fax machines, of course, have found a way to preserve the busy signal and frustrate you to no end.
Getting (and troubleshooting) confirmation
Seeing the OK status on a fax confirmation sheet is a reason to rejoice. Seeing anything other than an OK is a reason to panic. Hopefully the status comes back as something instructive - but often it's some cryptic note that doesn't even allow you you to determine whether the problem is on your or the receiver's end. If it's your own fax machine, it will probably be a little easier to make sense of these statuses. If it's an unfamiliar machine, good luck.
Let's say luck is on your side and like the wizard you are, you've guessed the correct number combination and you get a report saying everything went through. Nice work! But before you do your victory dance, you should probably call the recipient not only to see if they received it, but to confirm that all the data is legible and clear. Making out hand written (or even typed) words on a piece of paper is challenging enough. Add in a fax transmission and you've introduced blurry or faded text and you've made things near-impossible to read. Correctly deciphering fax transmissions in an order submission process has some big implications, as mis-interpreted quantities, SKUs, or prices can be entered and processed, leading to major errors, cancelled orders, and damaged customer relationships. For more on how bad handwriting can hurt your business, click here.
Figuring out why a fax machine isn't sending or receiving faxes, replacing toner, and dealing with general maintenance is just plain annoying. In fact, you might as well trash your fax machine the next time it breaks and use it as an opportunity to leap into 2014 with your technology guns blazing. With major technology advancements in scanners (which, we also hate but they are better than fax machines), email and order management software there's really no excuse to be using a technology as antiquated as a fax machine anymore. Do you have other reasons you hate fax machines? Any success stories getting your company to kick fax machines to the curb? Share with us below.