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In a nutshell: Smartphone ownership has reached near ubiquity in many parts of the world. Ironically, their prevalence has resulted in a large number of smartphone users that never developed the core skill of actually speaking to others over the phone because most of their exchanges with friends and family happen via text messaging.
Mary Jane Copps picked up on the shifting landscape 16 years ago and launched a consulting company called The Phone Lady to help businesses train their staff on telephone etiquette.
"Gen Z have never had the skills given to them," Copps told Insider.
Before smartphones, landline phones were as common in homes as televisions and microwaves. Kids learned at a very young age how to place and receive calls, and anxiety about talking to the person on the other end of the line was quite uncommon.
Despite growing up during the rise of smartphones, younger generations tend to have far less experience talking on the phone because instant messaging and texting have been their go-to method to communicate with others.
"Since they have a lot less experience talking on the phone, they have less comfort with it," said Alison Papadakis, director of clinical psychological studies at Johns Hopkins University. "That sets up people who are vulnerable to social anxiety to have anxiety in that situation," Papadakis added.
Copps is capitalizing on the opportunity at hand, charging $480 an hour for one-on-one coaching sessions and $365 for 30-minute webinars that are part of a seven-lesson series. Corporate workshops are priced at $3,500 per day.
Copps said she often has new clients start by not texting anyone for three days. Instead, they are instructed to call friends and family if they want to chat or have a question.
"If they're not even used to talking on the phone to their mother then the process is so scary. So I can't say I'm going to make them call prospective clients as they would just fall apart — we start with their family or someone they know."
Copps will also call clients randomly throughout the day during training to practice conversations and build improvisation skills. She said many of her clients are start-ups and those operating in the financial sector. In these fields, it is critical to be able to build a relationship with a client beyond email where elements like the tone of a person's voice can't be properly conveyed and thus, crucial context clues like interest or enthusiasm are missed.
Image credit: Roman Ska, Pradamas Gifarry, Andreas Klassen