Telephone Privacy

Researchers from Tel Aviv University have reported that our use of smart phones is changing the way in which we perceive privacy when on the phone.  An in depth survey of smart phone and ordinary mobile users revealed that while ordinary mobile users consider others around them when talking in a public place, smart phone users are 20% less likely to believe that their own conversations might affect those in their vicinity.

More interestingly, those using smart phones are 70% more likely to believe that their phones afford them a measure of privacy.  This means that smart phone users are far more likely to hold private conversations in public places. 

The research also revealed a divergence between the ways in which smart phone and ordinary mobile users viewed their phones.  When faced with the loss of the phone, smart phone users expressed negative feelings such as being lost or tense whilst other mobile users expressed positive feelings such as feeling free or quiet.

In a way the feelings of freedom and quiet expressed by other mobile users are more akin to those experienced in an office situation.  Coping with telephone interruptions is one of the corner stones of many time management programmes.  Solutions offered include:

  • Using caller display to help to pre-screen calls
  • Using a caller select and switchboards which identifies caller numbers and sets alternate ring tones or answer protocols  for different caller types
  • Putting time limits on calls
  • Recording calls to save having to take notes
  • Letting calls go to answerphone
  • Auto-divert of calls to another employee or virtual receptionist service

We have even seen some time management gurus suggest that rather than keep a fully “open door” policy for telephone contact you set aside a time each day when clients and colleagues can contact you by phone.  Whilst this won’t work in many professions, those who spend the bulk of their time in having to concentrate on lengthy reports or intricate work may benefit from having an “answer calls only between..” policy.  With studies suggesting that it can take around 20 minutes to recover from an interruption any policy which cuts down on interruptions will maximise the time spent on concentrated work.

In fact the solutions indicated above are not only beneficial for those looking to manage their time more effectively. Auto diverting calls can also help to ensure that callers are directed to an appropriate individual or department, thus increasing the chance of a successful outcome to the call and in the process building customer satisfaction levels.

Similarly, making use of a virtual switchboard which identifies caller numbers and directs them appropriately can help calls to be answered promptly and appropriately. For example, if organisation is running a marketing campaign in a particular region, calls from that regional code could be diverted to a dedicated team. Alternatively, in a multi national organisation, calls from France could be diverted to a French-speaking team, from Japan to a Japanese speaking team and so on.

The Tel Aviv researchers are going to extend their research to try and understand how smart phone users incorporate their phones into their everyday lives.  For the rest of us a virtual switchboard or telephone divert plan may just help us to work smarter with fewer interruptions.

Written by nilfg