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Internet access Marketing

Falling Off the Phone Trees

I’ve become pretty familiar with phone trees since I started providing phone captioning services for people with hearing disabilities about a year ago.

A lot of our fellow citizens who use this service, which is provided free from the Federal government through phone service taxes, are falling off the phone trees many businesses use to reduce the number of live customer service agents. Here in Arizona, “customer care centers” (aka call centers) used to be a thriving industry that’s rapidly being replaced by this type of phone automation.

Phone trees are programmed to force people to go online for their customer service needs. This is a problem for many elderly customers who can’t, or won’t use the Internet for a myriad of reasons. For many, a phone is their main connection to the outside world.

I’m seeing two trends, neither of which are good for elderly internet abstainers:

  • Long hold times interrupted with messages to visit a website
  • Complicated phone instructions requiring several inputs

Both include automated messages of varying speeds and at different volumes. This is definitely not senior-friendly.

The Phone Tree System: Internet or Else!

I’ve been amazed at the patience people have who remain on hold for a half-hour or more to settle a problem with credit cards or bank accounts. In many cases, they have no choice because they have trouble navigating Internet sites or they don’t go online at all.

Yes, such people exist and they still deserve to be served. Pushing everyone to use web-based solutions is not just short-sighted, it’s downright rude to those can’t access the Internet or simply don’t understand it. Or who, like one of my clients, refuses to “learn computers” but still runs a thriving business as offline as possible. I handle her Yelp and Google business accounts, which we agree are too important to allow someone to infringe upon.

Some phone trees are real hornets’ nests.

Older people take longer to process information and phone trees tend to be very rushed. Add in the inevitable two-second or so delay for people who read captions generated on their phones and they are quickly put in a vicious cycle of repeat-wait-repeat-wait-disconnect.

Customer-facing businesses need to understand that there are times when live, fluent customer service agents are necessary, even for the non-elderly or not-yet elderly. There are times when I opt for a live agent simply because the company’s online customer service process is so onerous it’s easier to put the phone on speaker and do something else while I’m on hold.

I’m fairly internet savvy so if I find a website to be burdensome, I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who retired around the time the internet took off.

Sometimes an older person will ask for the automated system to repeat something and are put on hold, where they get helpful advice to “resolve the problem faster” by going online to visit:

“www.VERYLONGBUSINESSNAME.com/customercare and click on the Help Me tab at the top right-hand side of the page.”

A person who doesn’t want to go online, or can’t, may get an estimated wait time as long as 40 minutes. Seriously.

I’m glad to report that most people who wait for a live agent are gracious to them. Agents are usually (but not always) polite as well, even if they have to be told to speak more slowly.

Some Phone Trees Force Callers to Distant Branches

Phone trees that force extensive interaction with the phone are the worst. And again, much of the problem is with instructions spoken too fast plus extremely limited time for callers to respond.

I’ve been surprised myself when I’m about to respond to a phone prompt only to hear “invalid response” because I haven’t entered the information yet. I’m still pretty spry but sometimes I have to take off my glasses to read an account or credit card number. This nanosecond of activity is apparently too long for some phone automation systems.

Now think of older people who move more slowly to put on or take off glasses or reach for a pair. They will never make the automated system happy.

Those who are waiting for a caption to come through often have their reading interrupted the command “invalid input please try again” which often flusters them. So they either press zero for an operator to be put on a longish hold, or just hang up. I’ve noticed that men hang up much more often than women.

Then there is poor-quality voice-recognition technology. Aging can affect a once-booming voice, but I’ve heard people quite clearly speak their account numbers only to be told, or interrupted before they finish, that “I did not understand you. Please try again.” If there’s a problem, put on a live agent on, preferably within a minute or two.

Calling the doctor? Be prepared to memorize a long list of “options”

numbered buttons
Press one if you’re calling from a physician’s office…

Physician offices have long phone trees with a lot of  “options” to remember. Here’s a typical example:

  1. If you are a physician or calling from a physician’s office, press one.

Do their calls go to some special Bat Phone that’s answered right away? Why do physician offices get priority anyway? Shouldn’t patients be the center of the medical universe?

2. If you are a pharmacist, press two.

3. If you are calling for a prescription refill, please hang up and contact your pharmacy.

4. If you are calling to schedule, change, or cancel an appointment, press three.

5. If you need to speak to a nurse, press four.

  • If you need to speak to Dr. Dre’s medical assistant, press 127594.
  • If you need to speak to Dr. Oz’s nurse, press 460367.
  • If you need to speak to Dr. Gupta’s PA, press, 9904523.

Actually, my sample names are too short. Many doctors seem to have really long names. To continue:

6. If you are calling for a referral, press five.

7. If you are calling for a medical records release, please fax your request to 212-555-4593.

8. If you are calling to speak to our billing office, please hang up and dial 888-555-4529 and dial extension 460285.

9. To repeat these options, press six.

Is this really necessary? How about offering a short menu like “Patients and their representatives press one. All other calls press two” and go from there.

Phone Trees Don’t Have to Be a Burden

I get it. Companies like automation and there probably is no going back.

Going forward, more seniors will be perfectly fine using the web to schedule doctor appointments, check their financial statements, and order take-out. My teenager, who works for a pizza chain, tells me how much people at work hate answering the phone because it removes someone from the “make line.” Phone orders often take several minutes, while online orders simply pop up a large order screen.

Too many phone trees expect too much from callers. If hiring someone to answer the phone isn’t an option, businesses that rely on this technology can make a few changes that make them easier to live with:

  • Drop the long-winded menus
  • Use the same voice throughout the menu
    • Slow down the tempo
    • Keep an even volume
  • Don’t bother with messages to entertain or inform people on hold. They can confuse callers who think they’ve been connected to a sales office. When a live person does pick up, the person waiting may not realize he’s no longer on hold! This sometimes results in the call being disconnected.

It’s OK to offer an online option to take care of customer service issues, but it should never feel like waiting for a live agent is some kind of punishment. Use a creative solution like an automated callback or a voicemail message that will be returned.

Remember, seniors talk to each other about how they’re treated not only by their children, but by doctors, financial advisers (who usually have excellent phone skills), and the customer service they get from services like credit cards, banks, and cable or DISH.

Categories
Lifestyle Marketing Mobile technology

WiFi Calling To The Faraway Towns

My new-ish smartphone started prompting me a couple of weeks ago to install WiFi calling. Since we’re still getting acquainted, I’d lose the notice as soon as I tapped in my PIN and I’d get sidetracked by something else.

But then the prompt remained visible and I went through the brief process of installing WiFi calling, which I knew nothing about. In an age where nonsequiturs like “alternative facts” or “collusion isn’t a crime,” abound, I had reason to believe WiFi calling had nothing to do with my router. But, it turns out, WiFi calling (forgive me the Clash hit is now an earworm)  is exactly what it implies. Imagine that!

WiFi Calling Fixes The Problem of Shaky Cell Coverage

WiFi router
Now you want me to take your calls? / Pixabay – Wikimedialimages

I live in a weak cell phone zone. Every cell phone coverage map I’ve looked at except one shows my neighborhood to be in a weak zone. I have no reason to believe the supposed standout is any better than the others and anyway, I don’t like the company.

As a result, I’ve dropped many calls in my time. Since I use a smartphone for my business, this really was a problem.  I figured WiFi calling was worth a try. My new smartphone, which is also on a new network for me, seems to be better about hanging on to calls, even when I’m on the sketchy north side of my house.

WiFi calling is supposed to be faster than 4G and can connect in more places, which so far seems to have fixed my problem with dropped calls. I’ve had uninterrupted phone conversations in different parts of the house. It didn’t seem to cause any interference with the other connected devices in our home, either. To be honest, they don’t gobble much data. As far as I know, no one here is doing heavy-duty gaming or running a cryptocurrency operation.

What Took Me So Long to Get WiFi Calling?

So why was I suddenly getting messages to encourage me to connect to WiFi calling? And why didn’t I have it sooner?

To answer that first question, WiFi calling isn’t pre-set on smartphones even though those manufactured since 2016 can “seamlessly switch between 4G and WiFi” according to one FAQ. To answer the second question, most Android phones manufactured before 2016 didn’t have WiFi calling capability, including my older phone. (It became available on the iPhone 5c.) Perhaps it took a few months for my provider to realize I  hadn’t taken this step, or analyzed my bill and saw I was using their weak cell towers.

WiFi Calling Is Free! (For Now)

It occurred to me a few days after I installed WiFi calling that this could be one way for sneaky Internet service providers (ISPs) or mobile providers to charge for better services.

Much to my surprise, WiFi calling is free when used within the US, at least for now. It will not count toward minutes if you aren’t on an unlimited calling plan and apparently it won’t count against your data usage either since it relies on access to WiFi networks. Keep in mind, though, that Net Neutrality is officially dead. I’m not optimistic that ISPs won’t figure out a way to measure the data used for WiFi calling and charge accordingly. It shouldn’t be long before they take advantage of the so-called “light touch” regulation the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now embraces.

Am I paranoid? Well, arguably yes but I do rely heavily on the Internet for my freelance work. I conduct a lot of research and a good chunk of my writing lives on the Google Drive and Dropbox.

ISPs Love WiFi Connections

I had, of course, set my phone to work with my WiFi for Internet access. I don’t recall seeing a prompt to set up WiFi calling during this process which strikes me as odd.

ISPs want more devices connected to them and have created whole-home connection services, or WiFi extenders, for an extra charge. Comcast recently introduced the Xfinity xFi Pods, small pods you plug into an outlet and connect to Comcast’s xFi Wireless Gateway or xFi Advanced Gateway. Everything is set up using a mobile app that pairs the Pods with a router compatible with the whole shebang. You can also monitor performance through the app. Pods come in six-packs and three-packs costing $199 and $119, plus a monthly charge.

Cox, the major ISP where I live, has the Panoramic 2-in-1 WiFi Modem that looks like a smart speaker. It’s not explicitly calling it an extender but it does advertise a lot of the same benefits: whole-house coverage including normally dead areas “for all your devices” and a Cox Connect app. The WiFi modem has 24 channels and is available with the $60.99 Internet service, plus $9.99 monthly modem rental. The modem itself is rental only and includes Cox servicing and replacement.

Not that I have a choice, but the Cox package is more appealing to me than the Comcast one.

Perhaps the ISPs are colluding coordinating efforts with wireless phone providers to add smartphones to their services. There is definitely an advantage to having higher speed Internet than the minimum basic or starter packages. And if consumers are more satisfied with their wireless providers, they’re less likely to be tempted away to another network. I can see the mutually beneficial arrangement.

More WiFi Calling Benefits

As I’ve noted, WiFi calling is free throughout the US including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. And some wireless providers offer it free overseas in countries where the service is available, but you will still pay for international rates if you are placing the call unless, as I learned this summer, you call a US number that happens to be outside the US. In that case, the charge goes to the party that picked up the call.

You can, of course, get around this by using your Skype app or WhatsApp.

You can use WiFi calling when your phone is in Airplane mode. I do not know if this will get you kicked off an actual airplane; check with that carrier.

Have the engines stopped running?

Categories
Lifestyle Marketing

The State of the Spoken Langauge

For the past several months I’ve been providing captioning services for people who are hard of hearing and use one of those caption phones that let them read their conversations. Many customers are older people who also use hearing aids. I’ve written about how people are speaking faster than ever before, which makes conversation harder to follow (and caption!), and how telemarketing staff can improve sales to older folks by adapting their speech. It’s an interesting perch that lets me observe the state of the spoken language for a few hours each week.

I’ve certainly become more aware of my own speech patterns and speed. I’ve got my own fast-talking teenager who is nice enough to slow it down for me and his elderly (89 years old) grandfather who refuses to wear hearing aids.

Here are some other observations I’ve jotted down over the past several weeks.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Huh?
I have not actually heard this one but I’m waiting…/Pixabay, QuinnTheIslander

Phrases Can Come Back

Some phrases, like Tony Bennet, can have popular comebacks.

The most recent one is “blah blah blah.” Maybe it’s because it’s summer and people are tired and don’t feel like talking. Between the heat, storm, floods, and wildfires, it’s not been an easy summer for a lot of people. I’ve even heard the occasional “yadda yadda yadda,” an even bigger surprise because that one really got overworked in the 1990s.

Several weeks ago, I started hearing a phrase I don’t think I’d heard since childhood: “okey-dokey.” And it wasn’t coming from the people for whom I caption—it was from people speaking to them. Many of them sounded middle-aged or younger, and they were from all different backgrounds including a guy who sold farm equipment, schedulers in physician offices, hair stylists, and even tech support people.

“Okey-dokey” is something I recall being said by adults to children and my first reaction upon hearing it was that it was from one of those well-meaning but annoying people who talk to older people as if they are children. But then the farm equipment guy used it after a discussion with a customer about the right kind of tubing to use for an irrigation project.  The two were clearly acquaintances–they commiserated over the mess known as the Colorado River Compact–and I recall they also discussed parts for a second-hand tractor someone was trying to sell.

By the way, the software we use to record our captions focuses on the other party to a call. We generally don’t hear our own customers very well since we are only captioning the speech of the other person on the line. Sometimes we don’t hear customers at all.

The Urban Dictionary says “okey-dokey” first appeared around 1930. Another contributor said it’s a way to agree with something that’s pretty lame (like your boss reminding you about getting reports in on time), and yet another said it’s another way to tell someone to go fuck yourself.

Bless Their Hearts

Which brings me to another phrase: “bless your heart.” I was made aware by a friend who grew up in Tennessee, in a town literally halfway between Memphis and Nashville, that this is the Southerners’ way of saying precisely the same thing. It made me rethink a lot of people who I thought were my friends when I lived in the DC area.

I hear “bless your heart” so often among southerners that I assumed the phrase is intended for Yankees. But it’s all in the context of the conversation, as this Bless Your Heart 101 article from Southern Living explains. After reading it, I’m pretty sure that the empathetic version is only intended for fellow Southerners. Either that or they spend a lot of time on the phone with people they don’t like, bless their hearts.

Here are some other phrases Southern Living says are unique to the south but I declare I heard many of these growing up in New Jersey. I won’t argue their origin, though, because that conversation won’t amount to a hill of beans and we can talk about it til the cows come home. Be sure to watch the accompanying video, too—it’s a hoot.

Sports Idioms Live On In Spoken Language

Sports idioms in the spoken language live on and it’s a crowded field out there.

All across the nation, people leave voice messages that they “just wanted to touch base,” a phrase I rarely hear spoken live to another person. Interestingly, I hear this most often in messages left by women, usually to men.

Men talk a lot about “Monday Morning quarterbacking” oddly enough, it seems, mid-week. I could be imagining it but I caption more men mid-week than on Mondays and Fridays. I hear this particular phrase in the rare political conversation and among people who got stuck in a bad weather situation. Farmers also use it: many have thrown their hands up in the air when it comes to the weather.

And those tests the doctor orders? They want the whole nine yards. But if you want to know how much a medication will cost, even a ballpark figure, forget it. They say they have to jump through too many hoops to get this.

I once worked with someone who broke up with a guy because she couldn’t stand that he said “okey-dokey.”

Do you have a favorite or least favorite colloquialism, idiom, or clichè?

 

 

 

Categories
Lifestyle Marketing

Marketing to Seniors By Phone? Keep It Clear and Concise.

I work a part-time job where I have the opportunity to listen in on customer services and marketing to seniors delivered via phone.

For the most part, I’m not impressed. Aside from the obvious frauds (and I’m glad to report that many seniors smell a rat pretty quickly), far too many businesses are missing an opportunity to attract a group that has money and are probably more polite and patient than other age groups.

Seniors Have More Money to Spend Than Ever Before

Today’s seniors have more money today than they did a few years ago. According to a 2017 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, households headed by someone age 75 or older saw their net worth increase by 60%—more than other age groups.

I won’t get into the specifics but you can read an excellent summary on “the graying of wealth” from Forbes contributor Neil Howe.

One item that stuck out to me is that wealth is also much more evenly distributed among this generation. Marketing to seniors as a group is in itself a pretty good lead. Plus, they like to shop, if not for themselves then for grandchildren and other young people in their lives. And according to the American Marketing Association, research from AARP shows they’re brand-loyal as well. One sale can lead to more.

Marketing to Seniors? Slow Down the Fast Talk and Speak Plainly.

I noted in an earlier piece that people who make a living doing sales over the phone need to slow the hell down with their speech! At some point, only they will be able to understand each other.

It’s funny because these calls often begin at a nice pace. “Hello may I speak with Mr./Mrs. Smith?” Once they connect with the right person, these telesalespeople seem to go into speech overdrive: “IhavesomeexcitingnewstosharewithyouaboutournewskincareproductdevelopedjustforTheGreatestGeneration!”

Honestly I don’t understand many of these callers and I have several years in front of me before I collect Social Security or wave placards warning the government to keep its hands off Medicare.

Seniors love to take notes from phone conversations.

Marketing and salespeople who slow their speech to an accessible level will get some interest even from normally skeptical seniors. I admit they probably won’t make a sale right away because seniors love to take notes so they can “look this up” later, probably to make sure they aren’t being sold a scam. And if a senior isn’t interested, he or she will politely inform you before hanging up.

I have a friend, a guy in his late 50s, who sells e-commerce services via phone. He’s lucky in that he doesn’t make cold calls and only calls people who ask to be contacted so he’s already dealing with interested parties. But he has many elderly customers who not only renew the service year after year but specifically ask to speak only with him.

The reason? He’s got a great phone manner. He’s friendly, knows the product extremely well, and speaks clearly. He’s also very patient and doesn’t allow himself to get annoyed by repeated questions.

He’s created a great recipe for successful marketing to seniors.

He works on commission so it’s in his interest make quick sales. But he understands that not all selling can be done at a rapid pace. So he paces himself for those that take more time, even scheduling a time to speak with older clients when he knows the office will be quiet.

Live and Automated Customer Service Need Consistent Speed and Volume

One thing that amazes me is how people who make a living on the phone as customer service or IT reps seem to talk without breathing. How do they do that? 

Anyway, remembering to breathe will slow down your speech. Which is good for you: lack of oxygen will eventually make you faint. And it will make you a better customer service rep because I’ll bet you get a lot of calls from seniors. Keep a steady speaking pace, and don’t worry about long pauses: most seniors listening to you on the phone are writing everything down.

This is critical when it comes to people who work in financial services. Don’t rattle off numbers one after another. Say them slowly and be clear about which account you’re reporting.

In addition to live agents, there’s a lot of automated information seniors obtain via phone. Many times, these recordings are inconsistent with volume and speed. This is a terrible way to treat customers. Automation has already taken away jobs but why turn away real and potential customers? Talking fast to cram in a lot of “options” isn’t working. Seniors will just hang up.

The worst offenders seem to be physician offices, where voicemail is often set up by women with soft, higher pitched voices. Their voices are fine one-on-one in an exam room but not for an older person, likely with hearing aids, who’s trying to understand a long outgoing message. So they might hang up, but that means they will call again, tying up the lines. Or they may press any button to get to someone live.

And what’s with the volume variance in customer service call centers? There’s no good reason to screech up the volume to inform callers that you may be recording the conversation for “training and customer service purposes.”

And finally, does your service ask callers to participate in brief customer service surveys?  Well guess what? Seniors do participate. Amazingly, they give middling scores to some pretty awful practices. Be nice, be clear, slow it down, and you’ll get higher marks.

Providing Tech Support? Give Seniors Clear Definitions.

Marketing to seniors includes answering their computer-related questions.
Seniors are online for email, shopping, and researching everything marketers tell them.

Tech support people have long dealt with clueless customers. I remember hearing back in the day about how the “cupholder” on a new computer broke or worrying about giving the computer the flu virus.

People have caught up quite a bit. Still, tech support staff should be cognizant that many seniors don’t understand a lot of their language.

People often confuse browsers with search engines. It’s so rote, they don’t think about it.

Ask many non-tech people (not just seniors) what browser they use, and they’ll probably answer “Google.” This does not mean Chrome. This means they get to your company’s website through Google. Many people really don’t know the difference between a browser and a search engine. Or they forget: these functions are so rote, so automatic, that they don’t really mean much to the non-techies among us.

It also doesn’t help, as one tech support guy said, that Google and Microsoft use a similar color scheme.

So before you ask what browser someone uses, ask if they use IE, Firefox, Chrome, whatever. Some might even be using Safari.

Finally, understand that seniors want to use computers. They really do like them and they absolutely love email, Facebook, and online shopping. And while they don’t freak out like their younger friends do when the Internet isn’t working (they do things like read and chat on the phone), they deserve high levels of service. Because the services and products they’re buying might be from you!

 

 

Categories
Lifestyle Marketing

Speak Clearly, Please!

“Can you repeat that?”

I find myself asking this a lot. It seems I encounter more people who don’t, or can’t, speak clearly. Many are of a certain generation who are just as stereotyped as the Baby Boomers with whom I am supposed to identify.

(Actually, I was relieved to read that I can also claim to be part of Generation X with whom I identify more closely. I don’t feel like I have much in common with those lucky hippies who got to see The Doors and Cream and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.)

As I ask “can you repeat that?” I realize I am stereotyping myself into the Baby Boom, who have been retiring since 2014 and who I bet has a lot more hearing loss than I since they got to see all those great acts before the era of stadium concerts.

Please Speak Clearly, Dammit!

As one who works within marketing, it bothers me that I have to ask someone who makes a sales call to me to repeat himself or herself. I can tell by speech patterns that this is almost certainly a person at least 15 years younger than I. So dudes, please slow down a bit and speak clearly.

I mean, I wouldn’t write an article or blog that doesn’t define its jargon.  I know what it’s like to not be hip or tech enough. Thank God for magazines like Wired and sites like TechCrunch and CNet. Without them, I’d feel very alienated because I grew up pre-Internet. I mean, we got cable TV relatively early and that was when I was in high school.

When I’m speaking with the general (read: younger than me) public, I find I’m asking that question to please repeat what you said more often than ever. It could be due to natural hearing loss that comes with age.

But there’s more: it’s been floated in a couple of places that technology has downgraded the necessity for clear speech. Certainly, it’s been blamed for messing with written speech—just look at the last couple of texts you sent or received. But there’s something to be said for brevity where it’s appropriate. I think more people are growing up speaking more rapidly.

Research shows people are speaking more rapidly today.

I came across a 2011 article in which Wichita State University speech expert Ray Hull explains his research that shows people increased their vocal speeds from 145 words per minute (wpm) to 160 – 180 over a decade. But most people comprehend the spoken word best when it’s down at 124 – 130 wpm or so.

Moreover, in a more recent (2016) article about slowing down speech for young children, Hull also noted that the central nervous system reaches its peak effectiveness in the early 20s. But it starts to slow down in the 40s, particularly in the area of speech processing.

No wonder so much strife has been noted between Millennials and GenXers/Baby Boomers. We/they literally can’t stand to talk to one another!

It’s Even Harder to Repeat Spoken Words

I have a part-time job with a company that provides telephone captioning services over the Internet for people with hearing loss. It’s really opened my ears to speech patterns, including speeds and accents.

Caption employee trying to understand spoken content.
What did he say?

Instead of typing out live speech, we are trained to listen and repeat using speech-to-text software. This is thought to provide more accurate translation, and so far I’d agree in general.

But it’s not easy to repeat spoken words verbatim, particularly when you are an invisible middle person and there’s no body language to observe.

I have been surprised to learn that it isn’t just fast talkers I find most challenging: it’s fast talkers with accents I don’t often encounter. I never lived further south than Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. And while I heard a lot of accents over the many years I lived there, most people I associated with sounded more or less like me.

It’s said that Southerners speak more slowly. Well, that isn’t so when they are talking to one another. Try to caption a Texan relating exciting news to a fellow Lone Star resident. I find it’s easier to keep up with New Englanders on a conference call.

I was curious to see if fast talkers dominate the Mid-Atlantic States so I did some research.  A couple of years ago, The Atlantic reported on a study that ranked states by the number of fast talkers based on actual phone calls.  Somewhat surprisingly, New Yorkers were not found to be the fastest speakers. They weren’t even close: the state ranked all the way down at #38—far behind my native New Jersey, which came in at #19.

Oregon was home to the fastest talkers, followed by Minnesota—a little startling to me—and Massachusetts, which wasn’t so surprising.

I then compared this list of fast-talking states to a map that ranks states by their populations’ youthfulness to see any correlation. Oregon is a bit older than the national median age (37.9, according to the Census Bureau) at 39.2 years, not much younger than Massachusetts at 39.5. Utah has the youngest median age at 30.7. It’s also ranked #31 for fast-talking, perhaps because it has a younger population that’s still in their developing years.

I didn’t find a correlation between a state’s median age and how fast its residents speak.

Texas, though, is a youngish, 34.5 median age state. But it’s at #44 on the fast-talking list. Maine has the oldest median age in the nation at 44.5 but ranks #21 on the speech list.

So there isn’t much of a fast-talking/median age correlation.

Customer service centers with live operators can be challenging to repeat because many of their employees are young and talk quickly. Many are instructed to keep calls under a certain number of minutes in order to process more incoming calls.

Some of our customers will inform service reps that they use a captioning phone so their responses will be delayed a few seconds. That does tend to slow down some of the reps, or at least stop asking “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?” over and over.

Even more frightening are outgoing voicemail messages where the only discernable sound is that of the beep. Even voicemail greetings from doctors’ offices can be very difficult to follow because of their speed and the amount of information the caller is asked to leave: date of birth, name, the time you called, which doctor you see, and oh yeah: why are you calling?

Be Kind and Speak Clearly: The Nation is Aging

Eventually, the fast-talking Millennials will get older (I hope!) and will ask people to slow down for them.

I don’t mean to Millennial-bash. Some of the nicest people I know are of this generation. But if we’re all going to get along and do meaningful things, we need to slow down the way we communicate. Most Americans are approaching 40 or past it. With age comes a caution to understand everything that’s being said!

As Hull notes, slowing down your speech is good for everyday conversation. You’ll sound more articulate. Your speaking style will sound more natural as well. “The next time you’re talking to someone,” he told Wichita State’s NewsWise service, “remind yourself to slow down. Your listener will thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

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