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Richard Gabel
Coworking, Office Space and Meeting Rooms / Strategic and Business Planning Consultant
Issaquah, Washington
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Cell Phones Make a Bad Impression

My cell phone let's me watch TV, view movies, email, surf the internet, take pictures and an untold number of other things I'm sure I have no use for, but it isn't worth a darn for communicating.
Written May 02, 2009, read 1544 times since then.
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My cell phone let's me watch TV, view movies, email, surf the internet, take pictures and an untold number of other things I'm sure I have no use for, but it isn't worth a darn for communicating.

For one thing, if we're going to be married to a cell phone 24/7 we want it to be unobtrusive, namely small. Small means that once you put the phone to your ear, the end of it doesn't reach much past your ear lobe. That puts quite a distance between your mouth and the microphone. Under ideal circumstances, through the miracles of modern science, your voice can often be heard clearly and without interference in a laboratory environment. That of course assumes the laboratory is not in a dead zone like my house. It is inconceivable that with more cell towers over powering the landscape than political signs in November that there is a square foot in this country that can't receive a cell signal. But sadly, there is. The more important issue is the total lack of fundamental etiquette in cell phone usage, particularly as it pertains to business.

When I am speaking to someone and their cell phone rings, they've lost me. Even if they don't take the call, I am usually treated to a painful electronic rendition of their favorite song. Ring tones more obnoxious than you can imagine are always considered cute by their owners much like yipping dogs. If they take the call and only tell the caller they'll call them back, I'm still lost. I've just been told that our conversation isn't important enough for them to turn off their cell. The movie theater yes, but me no. If they take the call and start a conversation I've simply been put in my place. I have no value to this person. Even when I get a quick glance from them with an expression that seems to say "Look at me, I'm always available to my customers." All his or her customers except me at this particular moment.

I am also put off when I call someone and I get them on their cell. Such calls are most often accompanied, in crystal clear clarity and high volume, the sounds of traffic, dogs asking to go out, babies needing a change, children needing anything and everything and spouses unhappy about the caller's lack of concern for any of the afore mentioned problems. Somewhere in all that there is the garbled sound of what I assume is the person's voice. The person at the other end of the phone cannot possibly fully engaged in a conversation with me nor me with them.

I do want to hear a voice at the other end of a line when I place a business call. Even if it is not an emergency, there is something reassuring to find that I'm not dealing with a one-person show or that an actual human knows that I have called and I don't have to wonder about if and when the caller is going to check their voicemail. Using your cell phone as a single point of business contact is like using Starbucks as your conference room; yes you can do it, but it's really lame. Clients want to do business with professionals, when they have conversations with you, they want your full and complete attention, they don't want to have to ask you to repeat yourself constantly because they can't hear or understand you and they most certainly don't want you to interupt a conversation you are having with them to take a call.

Most answering services are incredibly transparent. A different voice answering all the time, the background noise of a hundred other operators answering calls and a disinterested tone of voice that does more harm than good for the reputation of your business.

Good communication in business is not easy and usually comes with a price.  Don't be deluded by that menace in you shirt pocket or that Borg device sticking out of your ear. 

Learn more about the author, Richard Gabel.

Comment on this article

  • Photographer 
Seattle, Washington 
Michael Rodak
    Posted by Michael Rodak, Seattle, Washington | May 04, 2009

    Bless you Sir! I could not agree with you more! It's a shame how willingly people sacrifice quality for the illusion of convenience.

  • writer, editor, screenwriter 
Seattle, Washington 
Margaret Friedman
    Posted by Margaret Friedman, Seattle, Washington | Jun 30, 2009

    Thanks for raising awareness on this etiquette issue!

  • Strategic Writing Assistance & Business Coaching 
San Francisco, California 
Barbara Saunders
    Posted by Barbara Saunders, San Francisco, California | Apr 17, 2010

    I mostly agree. However, I am weary of "professional" being conflated with "business-like" and "formal."

    If I never had to step into another office setting, it would be too soon! I absolutely loved working as a personal trainer in a gym. I enjoy meeting my clients and my vendors in cafes, parks, taking walks (or even runs) together, wearing altogether casual clothes, and so on.

  • Coworking, Office Space and Meeting Rooms / Strategic and Business Planning Consultant 
Issaquah, Washington 
Richard Gabel
    Posted by Richard Gabel, Issaquah, Washington | Apr 17, 2010

    Barbara,

    Thank you for the comment. It's kind of dated now, I had to read it to remember what I said. Your point on professional is well taken. Let's call professional being focused and not distracted when talking to someone.

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