Why do people mumble on the phone?

I have literally never had a problem like that. I occasionally have someone say, “excuse me, i just missed a couple words”, and i apologise, face the phone, and say it again.

For me, having the phone call be 15 second longer and be physically comfortable is better than being 15 seconds shorter but uncomfortable. Oh realize i am prioritizing my comfort over your time, but it’s not a large imposition, with my phone that has good sound quality.

And if i have to use my cellphone there is literally nothing i can do to give you good sound quality. (Other than asking you to call back on my landline, if I’m at home.) And many people only have a cellphone, and have no other phone service available to them.

What are you doing with covid? You must be miserable.

To me, another factor is just plain sloppy speech and enunciation. In my past I trained as an actor and part of that training was in vocal production: projection, tempo, clarity, and enunciation. Primarily for stage work, but also meaningful for recorded work.

IMHO I think it would be useful to spend a few hours teaching children these techniques. Let them know that speaking on any electronic device is a skill. Get them young enough and they will absorb the teaching. Just slow down a tad, hit your consonants, and speak “sharply” (rather than in the back of the throat - it can be taught). Yes, it ends up being a form of “code switching”, if that’s a concern.

As an aging adult, I can attest to the decline in my hearing range, and find that people who have these skills (perhaps naturally) are much easier to hear clearly. And living with people who don’t, I end up being the old duffer who is constantly saying “what?”.

Sure, I’m miserable - but why should COVID change that? :smiley:

I’ve actually been enjoying the occasional Zoom calls we’ve had w/ our 2 out of town kids and their SOs. But I DESPISE more than 2 on 2 Zooms.

My wife and I can entertain ourselves and we enjoy each other’s company, we don’t need too much of others. We play a lot of music individually and together. Our in-person “bubble” is limited to approx 10 people we play music with, and close friends/family members. And I golfed up until last weekend.

Early on in COVID, I was on a Zoom w/ a group I used to regularly jam with. At one point, someone said, “This is better than nothing.” I did not utter my reaction which was, “I’m not sure of that.”

Nope - never liked talking on the phone.

A better question is why companies hire freaking call center people who can’t speak clearly.

I had to call Best Buy yesterday to check on an order. I got a representative who was on a speakerphone with background noise, and who spoke rapd-fire slurred words that were absolutely impossible to understand. I kept saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t understand you.”, “Could you maybe go off speakerphone? I still can’t understand you.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t understand your question. Could you please slow down and speak clearly?” Repeat over and over again.

This went on for a while, with the person refusing to speak in any other way or go off speakerphone. I eventually had to tell her we were wasting our time and hung up.

It wasn’t an accent issue. She was iust terrible at speaking. You’d think that would be a key equirement for a call center employee.

I do not think you understand the meaning of that word. Unless the people in your bubble are living with you.

With musicians, I think there’s special dispensation for those who simply wake up on your living room floor the next day.

Yeah, fine. You take the precautions you feel appropriate, and I’ll do the same. Only difference is I won’t criticize you on-line.

As I understand the term, a “bubble” need not all live together.

It didn’t sound humble to me. Comments about moderators belong in ATMB, not here.

Back to the OP I just wanna say that I get (not so much make) calls frequently from medical staff and or folks at front desks and they always navigate the conversations with knowledge that some days are better than others for some. apologies to Dinsdale and puzzlegal For being abrasive. :slightly_smiling_face:

Part of the problem is that cell phones operate in half-duplex mode. Even the GSM phones that transmit and receive on separate frequencies. Those don’t operate the T and R simultaneously. Half-duplex communication is always going to be worse than full-duplex-which is what a landline is. It isn’t the only reason for the low sound quality but it is a significant factor.

If I don’t put a call on speaker phone, I can’t hear what’s being said. It’s the phone, not my hearing ftr.

I have the same general type of job. For me, one of the big issues is people’s names–my job requires me to document who I speak to.

One thing that nobody has brought up yet is the issue of familiarity. For example, I am intimately familiar with my own name. When I say it, it sounds fine to me, because I am familiar with it. BUT–if I am mumbling, or slurring my words, or just speaking fast, OTHER people, who are not familiar with my name, may not understand what I’m saying.

A name like “John Smith” I can probably understand unless the connection is super poor. But a name like “Shaniqua Oliveson” is much harder to understand.

I’ve spent about fifteen years total working in call centers as both agent and supervisor and I can attest that this is NOT something that’s ever tested for. They test you on math and ability to type but a simple little “Read this script into the microphone” test was never part of the hiring process. It’s a real shame, too, because a mushmouthed agent is a huge source of aggravation to the customer base. I have fairly extensive training in public speaking and old school radio so clear elocution is something I learned early and it served me well working the phones. I’d do what I could coaching my agents but yeah, it’s bad out there. I dread having to call into any business these days because so many places have gone to outsourced agents who work from home and my gods, the quality of customer service has not been improved by these trends.

Easy. Companies don’t really care. They don’t have incentive to care. They’re trying to pay them the least amount they can, and don’t train them.

If they offshore the call centers, they can pay less, even if no one can understand the customer service person.

Will they lose some business? Maybe, but not enough for them to care. They want people to do their transactions online. If they can get people to go online, they save money. Since most people already do that, if they aggravate the few who don’t, they’re not losing much. It’s not like people shopping at Best Buy can go anywhere else and get better service. Their competitors are Walmart and Amazon, both with the same low level of service.

Taking this back to the OP, one of the reasons people are poor on the phone is because they’re not trained to speak on the phone. Even people with phone jobs aren’t trained well. I think there was a time when people were trained on phone etiquette because it was the mode of communication that most business was conducted on.


It’s especially noticeable with small businesses, where the proprietors/staff don’t seem to have a clue about how to handle phone calls.

I can understand that you may not want to spend money on a receptionist or have a dedicated phone line. Still, it doesn’t project a professional image when you fail to say anything when answering the phone, or just say “hullo?” while Days of Our Lives’ blares in the background.