How smart are phone users today?

By Phillip Cooke

Fifty years ago, receptionists and telephone exchange operators (“what the hell was a telephone exchange operator?”, I hear some of you thinking) would have, quite simply, been unable grasp the fact that a phone to most people in 2021 would be, smart, mobile and carry significantly more computing power that the whole system that took Neil Armstrong to the surface of the moon.

The majority of people who use the ‘phone function of their smart handset today would be equally incredulous at the thought that those people half a century ago were all trained how to use a phone – along with sales people, secretaries and others customer-facing groups. “Trained, what for, to do what?, a bright young thing asked me recently, “I mean, you decide whether you want to answer it or not, and if you do you click the green button and talk.”

Which prompts me to recall the old wartime saying, Careless Talk Costs Lives; because that ‘old’ training was borne of an understanding that a telephone in the wrong hands is a lethal object, leading to careless talk (and listening) that costs sales and customer satisfaction.

Some of the old, trained ground rules were:

  • never pick up a phone unless you are able to concentrate and listen
  • always have a pen and paper available
  • introduce yourself fully, with name, job title and a smile
  • smile as you dial
  • acknowledge what is being said with ‘listening noises’
  • use the other person’s name
  • avoid background noises
  • summarise the call and the actions that will be taken

All so very simple and obvious but, I fear, less likely to happen on a phone that is mobile when in use by someone untrained. The technology has changed and is wonderful. What hasn’t changed is the human need to be heard, acknowledged and respected as a colleague and customer. I hope something in these few words has rung a bell with you.