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Rant: If I had a time machine…

TARDISA few weeks ago I tweeted that if I had a time machine I’d travel back and ensure that the speakerphone was never invented. It’s a vile thing whose use is seldom justified. It degrades communication and damages relationships. This story is an example of how this can occur.

My tweet met with response from Doug Mohney. He noted that such an action would likely put Polycom out of business. I doubt that. I appreciate conference phones. Given the presence of a group their use is completely justified. It’s an individual using a speakerphone that makes my blood boil.

My tweet was inspired by a terrible experience on a recent conference call. The experience is worth sharing, so that you might avoid such aggravation, or worse cause someone else the same sort of outrage.

The call was a matter of routine. Per my habit I joined with my trusted team of a Polycom VVX-600 and Sennheiser DW Pro 2 cordless headset. It became immediately apparent that the person at the far end had me on a speakerphone. Back in 2011 I shared my thoughts on speakerphones in a perhaps less agitated fashion.

At the outset the situation was tolerable, if less than ideal. I could hear the far-end well enough, though it was apparent that they were in an open-plan, shared workspace. At least at first it wasn’t too bad.

As the conversation was starting the other person on the call began furiously typing. His focus was clearly elsewhere. Moreover, in my headset the sound of his typing came across like muffled gun shots. Clearly the conversation was not important to him.

A few minutes into the call one of his co-workers bounded into the workspace. I suspect he was either shouting into his mobile phone or at someone across the room. Whatever the case, it completely disrupted my train of thought, which was already strained by the sense that I was wasting my time even being on this call. Further incensed, I made for the exit as fast as possible.

Some misguided fools think that they can multi-task. I make no such claim. Perhaps they can, but at what cost? I came away from this experience with the sense that I was wholly unimportant to them. They showed blatant disregard for my time or quality-of-experience dealing with them. They made me want to take my business elsewhere.

While I may be angry, I am not entirely unreasonable. Everyone is busy. And I completely understand the desire to be hands-free.  Further, some people just aren’t that interesting. However, if the people on the phone are your customers they deserve your full attention.

At very least have some awareness of how you sound to the people at the other end of the line. Unless you’re taking dictation, keyboard clatter is an expression of disrespect. If you’re in a noisy place perhaps that’s not a good place to take a conference call?

If it’s just you, opt for a headset over a speakerphone. If you’re using a headset with a soft phone or web phone be certain that the headset microphone is the one that’s actually being used.

Show some care and concern for the party at the far end and they will be appreciative. They’ll be your next great reference or testimonial.

While I may feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, it seems that’s not the case. I recently found a lawyer who posted a article describing, “Why I don’t use a speakerphone.” He says;

“In my opinion, a speakerphone conveys to the person on the other end that they are not important, or at least not as important as my need to free myself, in part, from the conversation by putting them on speakerphone.”


“My clients are far more important than me and their cases far too important for me to make any witness, expert, or attorney involved in their matter feel like I am too busy or important to pick up the receiver and commit myself 100% to the conversation.”


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