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5 Epic Phone Fails

The telephone has been with since the late 1800’s yet it’s surprising how many people fail in it’s use. In my job I talk to a lot of people on the phone. During this time I’ve come across various traits that people have in their telephone manner. Some are endearing but many are irritating… and some… some are so bad that they can mar the whole conversation. So sit down, take the phone off the hook (see what I did there?) and check out my list of 5 cardinal sins of telephone conversations.

5. Not introducing yourself.

If you call someone, especially if you’re calling them for the first time or you haven’t called them in a long time, you must introduce yourself. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out (in fact, it’s best kept short); “Hi, my name’s ****** and I’m calling from *****” will do 90% of the time.

In my work I take a lot of cold calls and the worst ones are the ones that completely skip the introduction. They’ll ask “Who is it who deals with ******?” or “Can you put me through to *******?” but they give you no idea of who they are or what their business is. Sometimes the caller won’t even say “hello”!! It’s rude and can potentially waste a lot of time. So take a couple of seconds and say who you are.

4. Being too lazy to listen to the rings.

Okay that was hard to put across in a title so I’ll give you the scenario: Someone calls me up and after 3 rings or so (usually less) I pick up. “Hello…” I say… *silence* for a good few seconds then the reply comes “Hiya…”

That pause is symptomatic of people using phones where you can dial and start the call before picking up the handset. Listen, just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean you should do it. For a kick off, because you’ve done that you haven’t heard me say “hello” and if I were to give a longer greeting such as “how can I help you?” you’d have picked up half way through.

Using phones in this way means the caller has to look at a light or screen on the base unit of the phone to tell when the  other person has picked up. So if they look away for even a short time they can leave the other person saying “hello” over and over again and potentially hanging up. So please! Have the common decency to listen to the rings and the persons greeting and reply right away.

3. Leaving silent voice mails.

This one’s a real pain in my ass! When I hear that I have 5 new voice mails and 3 of them turn out to be *click* I start to question the callers IQ. I mean it can’t be that they start to hear the “The person you called is unavailable….” speech then hang up because then, there would be no message at all. In order to leave a *click* voicemail you’d have to listen to that whole speech, then the beep, then hang up!

Seriously people, there is plenty of time before that beep for you to decide if you’re going to leave a voicemail or not. It’s not rocket science. Even if your message is just something like “Hey, it’s Dan. You’re obviously busy, it’s not important I’ll try again later.” it’s better than just a click or, heaven forbid, a sigh and then a click.

2. Being too busy to answer, but answering anyway.

Pretty simple, this one. If you’re too busy to answer you have two acceptable choices; You either answer and say “I’m really sorry I’m just in the middle of something. Can I call you back?” or you let the call go to voicemail and get back to the person when you can. What you shouldn’t do is answer then immediately put the person on hold. It’s a total waste of the caller’s time and it’s really rude.

I know some people that will hang up right away when this happens. Personally I leave it 60 seconds, plenty long enough to put down what they are doing or say to someone “Excuse me, I just have to take this.”

1. Not giving the call your full attention.

This particularly applies if you are the caller. Imagine the scenario; someone calls you for help or to ask you questions but while you’re trying to help them they are constantly talking to others at their end or even putting you on hold!

Sounds crazy but it happens a lot. It gets particularly infuriating when you’re in the middle of trying to explain something and you hear the person say something like “Pam, can you make me a cup of tea please? … two sugars… no thanks…” It’s obvious they aren’t listening and you just know you’re going to have to tell them again.

Sometimes I even get calls where, after we exchange greetings and I say “how can I help you…” they put me on hold! WTF!?

Although I said that this is more important if you are the caller, it can never hurt to apply the same rule regardless of which party you happen to be. It’s just polite. It’s good manners and everyone leaves the call feeling a lot better.


  1. Magua - August 12, 2009 12:29 pm

    The voicemail one is far too true, i smile every time someone does that to me because it makes me wonder how some of them managed to get the job positions, careers etc, while they cannot even manage to press the red button on their phone.

    The other aspect of the call is number 1. Not giving full attention has lead me to believe they didn’t care enough and so i’ve hung up on people for it. It’s probably not recommended when in Customer Services, but as i’m not a call centre, i’m having to deal with people infront of me all the time. Having to politely tell them i need to take the call i expect the person calling to at least give their undivided attention.
    Do you know who the worst people are for that in my job? The IKEA Call centre.
    I’d hate to ring them as a customer..

  2. Dan Schonhaar - August 12, 2009 12:54 pm

    Yeah it’s hard to hang up on folks without catching hell for it but I have been blunt with them before and said “Look, unless you can give me your full attention I can’t help you” That usually sorts them out.

  3. kat neville - August 12, 2009 2:21 pm

    When I was growing up, my friends used to ask, “Is Kat there?” My dad had a few responses. He would say “Yes.” and then wait for 10-15 seconds, and then ask, “Is there anything else you want to know?” or he would say “Yes” and then hang up. I think he thought it was hilarious, but it really wasn’t.

    My biggest pet peeve is when I’m out for coffee with someone, we’re in the middle of a conversation, and their mobile rings. They not only answer it, but talk to the person for more than a few minutes, leaving you sitting there awkwardly looking into your mocha.

  4. Dan Schonhaar - August 12, 2009 2:27 pm

    Mate! How tempting is it to just snatch their phone out of their hand and drop it in their coffee?

  5. Olly - August 19, 2009 2:08 pm

    It winds me the fuck up when i answer the phone “Hello olly speaking” and they say, “Hi, is that dave?”


    I’m gonna start hanging up i recon…

  6. Dan Schonhaar - August 19, 2009 2:41 pm

    Oh shit!! I’d not thought of that one!

    For me it usually goes:

    Me: Hello?
    Them: Hi there, who am I speaking with?
    Me: I’m Dan
    Them: Oh, Hi Darren.
    Me: No, it’s Dan.
    Them: Darren?
    Me: *facepalm* Yeah, if you like. What can I do for you?

  7. Stu - September 7, 2009 9:13 am

    Sometimes #4 can be caused by having a system in place that dials numbers automatically and connects a customer services person to a customer automatically. Then it’s not the fault of the person on the other side of the line, but it is still _very_ annoying. 😐

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