Friday, 12 September 2014

Putting You Through

Phones and tablets are now practically welded to our bodies. Perhaps you are what Allison Pearson recently described as a fomo sapien. That’s Fear of Missing Out. A generation characterised by “an itchy thumb and short attention spans”.

Ironically the UK was initially slow to adapt to the telephone but its business and domestic use was recognised early on in the United States; by the end of the 1920s 40% of US households had one. An oft quoted statement by the then chief engineer of the General Post Office sums up the British attitude.

“There are conditions in America which necessitate the use of such instruments more than here,” he told a House of Commons committee. "Here we have a super-abundance of messengers, errand boys and things of that kind. The absence of servants has compelled America to adopt communications systems for domestic purposes. Few have worked at the telephone much more than I have, I have one in my office but more for show. If I want to send a message - I employ a boy to take it."

When businesses did adopt the telephone, rather than sending message boys or telegrams one presumes, they had to adopt the necessary telephone etiquette, what we would now call telephone techniques or customer service skills.  
Of course the BBC, being the BBC, cut a telephone training record for those working on the switchboard, all women at the time of course. Dating from 1953 here are extracts from it linked by Miles Kington (taken from a programme I recorded in July 1980).

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