Top 3 Challenges to Effective Phone Communication

November 22, 2015
Mary Jane Copps

Retro Phone. Handset and tangled wires, vector illustration. EPS


When we pick up the phone to speak with our customers or prospects today, we encounter three main challenges that often prevent us from communicating effectively.

Challenge #1:  Everyone is overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter who we are calling, or whether we are calling them at work or at home, or if they’ve been our customer for years. Each and every person we call has too much to do.  Their lengthy to-do list could be connected to their career, their growing family, their aging parents, financial or health issues – or a combination of all these things. We don’t need to know the “why”; only that everyone is experiencing the pressure and stress of too little time.

Challenge #2: We are all impacted by decision fatique. Never before in human history have we made so many decisions each day (research indicates 36,000 daily decisions – Dr. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University). This means that all of  us reach a point, a moment, when we can’t make another decision. This fatigue applies to our ability to book an appointment, view a demo, receive more detailed information, change providers, adjust a plan or policy, etc. etc. etc.

Challenge #3: While DialAmerica, which began operation in 1957 with one inbound and one outbound phone line, is generally considered the first “telemarketing” firm, the aggressiveness and persistence of this industry started to emerge in the 1970s when Bell introduced the WATS line (Wide Area Telephone Service). So for 40 years we’ve been receiving pushy and uncomfortable sales calls. Today this industry has risen to unexpected levels of aggression with call spoofing and robo calls becoming everyday occurrences.  As a result, we are all defensive and suspicious when we answer unexpected phone calls.

Faced with these challenges, how can you make sure your time on the phone is effective? How can you dissolve the defensiveness and skepticism, and inspire both conversation and action?

1. Remain empathetic and compassionate  about how these challenges are impacting your customers and prospects. Choose language that includes them, indicates your interest in them, and make sure your tone of voice is calm, friendly and welcoming.

2. Create a phone experience that quickly reveals the purpose and intention of the call. Don’t take up time with unnecessary conversation. Let the person you are calling know you have a purpose for your call that is valuable to them.

3. Make sure the focus of  the call benefits your customers and prospects; that it’s not about you and your needs. The people you call need to clearly hear a value for them in listening to you and engaging in conversation.

These solutions aren’t as easy as they sound. In future posts I’ll provide you more information and  ideas on how to meet and overcome these three challenges, and a few more lurking nearby. In the meantime … enjoy your phone work!



  1. Triforce Media says:

    For me I think no matter how many times I make that call I am always a little nervous and shy before I dial. Does anyone else feel the same way?

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Yes … about 75% of people feel the same way! Talking on the phone has a lot in common with public speaking, so there are always some jitters before you dial and get into the rhythm of having phone conversations. Even after 28 years, when I start a new phone project, I get nervous. It is perfectly natural and means that your are giving your full focus to the task of creating effective communication. Thanks for your comments, Amber.

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