Be Kind to Old Ears

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Be Kind to Old Ears

Today’s article is for all the people whose work involves talking on the telephone.

If any of your customers and clients are senior citizens, please speak slowly and distinctly. Especially if you are leaving a voicemail.

Obvious, isn’t it? Yet so many times I get phone calls that sound like this:

My old ears can’t process that.

I get lots of messages from doctors’ offices, my own and my husband’s. We’re on the medical merry-go-round—we have lots of doctors and specialists. When people leave their names and the names of the doctors they’re calling on behalf of and the call-back numbers, they talk so fast and so softly and so unclearly that I often have to listen to the message multiple times. Even my iPhone transcription can’t handle it. It gives me lots of blank spaces and gibberish. It’s frustrating.

When my husband gets a business call, he often hands the phone to me and says, “See if you can figure out what they’re talking about.” We often have to tell a caller, “I can’t hear you. Could you please talk into the mouthpiece?”

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Apparently, people today have never been instructed in the art of talking on the telephone. I blame the proliferation of cell phones. Back in the olden days, there was one phone for the entire family. Children often carried on their conversations in the presence of their parents. This provided opportunities for coaching. “Say, ‘Hi! This is Johnny. May I talk to Peter, please?’ ” Phone etiquette doesn’t come naturally—it’s learned. But someone has to do the teaching.

And don’t get me started on recorded calls. Our home phone has an answering message that instructs telemarketers to hang up. That message causes a 30 second delay before the phone actually rings through. You have no idea how many recorded confirmation calls I get from doctors’ offices that last maybe 32 seconds, but all I get to hear is “Please show up 15 minutes before your scheduled time.” Click. I have no idea who the call is for or which office called.

Please, if you have a business, make communication a priority. Be sure your clients and customers can understand your employees. Older people have enough challenges. Doing business with you shouldn’t be one of them.

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