Sara Moginot is a customer service aficionado based in Halifax and a regular reader and contributor to this blog.
As a child, our family had one black rotary phone in the foyer. To reach it, you walked up the stairs to the landing, which was a great open area lined with shelves full of books and an old wooden dresser.
The clunky black dial phone was on the top of the dresser. There were specific rules about using the phone and I was not allowed to use it until I knew – and understood – those rules. Do they still apply today?
For example, when I answered the phone, I identified myself and expected that the caller would also identify themselves as well: “Hello, this is Sara Jane Moginot speaking”, sometimes adding “With whom am I speaking?” Or “May I ask who is speaking, please?”
We did not call before a set hour in the morning, nor after 9 pm at night. Any calls outside of these hours were considered urgent … if the phone rang at midnight someone was either dead or in jail.
We used “good evening” and “good morning” and expected impeccable phone etiquette from ourselves and the people who called our home.
I have vivid memories of my father hanging up on people who called casually, without formal manners. While this didn’t sway the boys from dating my older sisters during their teens, it certainly set the guidelines for respect on and off the phone. And yes, it was embarrassing at times. My father did not live to experience the evolution of telemarketing, and I’m not sure it’s something I would have wanted to witness. I have a feeling the rotary phone would not have survived my dad’s sudden and violent hanging up of the receiver.
So much has changed. Call display and technology have definitely impacted some of this phone etiquette. Today when my children call, I can see who it is and simply say “hey”. We text and message between calls, so often the conversation has already started before the phone rings. With different time zones and work shifts, calls today are can be well outside the hours of my childhood and I turn my phone on silent to allow calls and messages to come through while I sleep.
I do remain grateful for the phone lessons I learned as a child. Phones are not toys; they are tools of communication to be used appropriately. What you say and how you say it matters, and talking to strangers is okay, but always use manners and respect.
Do you have a “phone story” you’d like to share? Perhaps it relates to your childhood experiences of landlines, or maybe it’s about a recent experience you’ve had on the phone in customer service, sales or with a friend. I’d be honoured to feature your story here. Simply send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org