The Lost Art of the Phone Call

by Jeff Wiener on March 18, 2016

PhoneCallFinishBlogAm I the only one who remembers the days of voice communication and the benefits of a fruitful phone conversation to solve problems or build bridges? Sometimes I think so.

In an age of emoticons and emails, of texting and technology, speaking to another human being on the phone seems to be something of a bygone era, yet it remains a vitally important business tool. The problem, strange as it may sound, is that people in today’s workforce are increasingly losing the ability to effectively talk on the phone; and not only that, there is a growing fear surrounding the use of the telephone as well.

As Mary Jane Copps, better known as the Phone Lady, explains, while speaking on the phone remains an important tool for any successful business, it is a skill that is increasingly in short supply, particularly in a digital age where communication is done predominantly with one’s fingers, not one’s voice.

But while you may think that this is largely a generational issue, with new millennial graduates entering the workforce unprepared for the realities of business communication, such is not the case, as corporate dependency on emails and other such digital communication has created an entire workforce that has forgotten the art of the business phone call.

“Business still happens on the phone and when I deal with graduating students, they might want to get into [an industry such as] financial services and they suddenly realize they have to talk to clients on the phone and they are not prepared,” Ms. Copps said.

“This is terrifying for them, since many of them have never spoken on the phone and if they have, it’s only to their mom,” she added.

In fact, phone phobia is a documented social condition, and as the reliance on text and digital communication has increased, so has the fear and general discomfort associated with talking on the phone. Keeping things relatively anonymous through texts or emails seems to now be the default option.

Not only that, but for those once accustomed to voice communication, the predominance of text and email communication across the business world has meant that many have lost the voice communication abilities they once had. Add that to a new generation who simply don’t have the skill set to talk on the phone, and voice communication may soon go the way of the Dodo bird.

Societal issues related to the decrease of voice communication aside, for businesses this lack of actual connection has several deleterious effects. First, voice communication is, often times, more effective in problem-solving and collaboration than digital communication, meaning things get done faster when people talk to each other. More to the point, people can achieve more in an efficient two-minute phone conversation than in a laboured multi-day email exchange. If you want to streamline your business, bring back the art of voice communication.

Second, voice communication is proven to be the best way to interact with customers. Now that’s not to say it should be the only way, or even the first option necessarily (although I happen to think it should be), but you would be surprised at how many customer service complaints are exacerbated by the fact that no one actually phoned the customer to see what was wrong. Email is great, but you need to know its limits.

All that to say, there is a certain sense of irony that in an age where we have access to unprecedented levels of voice technology, where business phone systems are better than ever, that we as a people are losing our ability to use them, not because we don’t know how to operate our phones, but because we’re losing our ability to use our voice to communicate. Making effective business phone calls is truly a lost art, and one, strangely enough, that will soon separate successful businesses from the rest of the pack.

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