My husband, the expert story teller, shares a tale of his 2nd grade experience learning how to properly answer the phone. I'm sorry that the story loses much of its humor when you remove the dinner wine and his highly animated voices, but the moral of the story is what is important. His teacher would pull out brightly colored plastic phones; the young students would then call each other practicing their best phone etiquette: "Hello, this is the Stork residence, Bradley speaking. Who do you wish to speak with?" and "I'm sorry, my mother is not available right now. May I take a message?" This was in the 1960s and home phones were now available to over 80% of US households. A child had no idea who was on the other end of the line: it could be their dad's boss, a total stranger or Aunt Sarah so phone etiquette was a critical life skill to keep the family safe and to ensure not offending the caller.
Then the invention of caller ID, available in most homes by 1990. Parents began to teach their children to not answer the home phone if they didn't recognize the phone number. The need for the basic phone etiquette skills began to decline.
Moving forward to today, most children will never answer a land line phone. According to this Chicago Tribune article, 40% of US homes no longer have land-lines, and that ratio rises to almost 60% when you look in the homes of 25-29 year olds. Any phone a child answers has the name of the person calling displayed, and they are welcome to answer much more casually: "Hi Nana! Mom is in the shower. When are you coming over?" Or even skip the niceties and just dive right into the conversation: "Yo Pops! Can we have pizza for dinner?" The need for children to learn what to say to a potential stranger on the phone is antiquated, so why would parents or schools invest time teaching children the basics of telephone etiquette?
It's time to stop being shocked by the lack of this skill and embrace the training opportunity. Just as you wouldn't expect a new call center employee to be able to navigate your computer systems without training, you shouldn't expect them to have an understanding of basic business phone etiquette. Pull out the brightly colored plastic phones and have some fun with it!