typewriterThe horrible events in Iraq leading to the execution of a journalist have created an international manhunt for the jihadist, believed to be British, who appeared in video footage widely distributed across the Internet showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley. Clues are being examined in minute detail amid suggestions that the executioner extremist, identified by a former hostage as “John”,comes from London. The FBI is on the case and are confident that they will identify and catch “John”.

70 or so years ago

We have all heard about the marvellous work done during World War II at Bletchley Park, The code-breaking activities involved up to 9,000 or 10,000 people (about three-quarters of this number were women). Often talked about is the Enigma machine but lesser known is the “eavesdropping” into what appeared to be innocuous German communications.

Examining clues closely often pays dividends and it doesn’t always have to be voices. I recall reading how someone who claimed not to have been at a Nazi death camp was caught out by analysts (I think Israelis) who were able to confirm his exact height and other measurements in a photograph (even though he had his back to the camera) using the yardstick of the known length of the particular rifle he was holding at the time. That was over 70 years’ ago.


cogitoToday, there are other tools available: for example, Hal Hodson wrote in New Scientist (issue 2968) about software that listens to your voice to assess your mood at the time. It gives call centre agents a dashboard that shows how the conversation with them is going. There’s a company called Cogito in Boston. Their algorithms work away in the software, apparently, at the author says; “while people talk, highlighting awkward pauses, tense tones of voice and one-sided conversations. Next time you call your insurer, bank or any other call centre, a version of Cogito’s software called Dialog could be running in the background, helping the customer service agent deal with you. If you start to get upset or angry, the agent can see that and take action to soothe you.”

Cogito, based in Boston MA, USA, has released a smartphone-based version of its voice analysis software, called Companion. This is what they say about it: “At the time of the Boston Marathon bombing, Cogito was engaged in a clinical trial involving Cogito Companion, a smartphone application that continuously and passively monitors psychological health and well-being using built-in mobile sensors and survey questions. The bombing offers a unique pre-and post-disaster dataset for understanding the longitudinal trajectories and risk factors for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) following trauma.”


woman on phoneYour telephone is a powerful tool. Use it wisely. Otherwise, it could catch you out. Together with emails and faxes, it is your firm’s link with the outside world.  If your firm receives say 100 calls in a day and you work on an average for 200 days a year… that’s 20,000 opportunities for first impressions for callers – whether they are clients, prospects or whatever.

The effect of all those opportunities is incredibly far reaching – perhaps more so than you’ve ever thought. Just to illustrate how far reaching it is, the results of an oft-quoted survey conducted a few years ago revealed these staggering statistics as to why customers no longer deal with a particular company – or, put that another way, the survey reveals why customers go to your competitors:

  • 3% of customers said they went to the competitor because it was more convenient for them to deal with the competitor.
  • 5% gave a variety of reasons which come under the heading of miscellaneous.
  • 9% said that they changed because of a relationship at a high level.
  • 15% of people said that they changed from one company to another because of a product range, price or the delivery time.

That leaves 68 percent. The survey showed that almost seven out of ten people left to go to competitors because of what they called “perceived indifference”. Perceived indifference is another way of saying “the company did not seem to care about me” or “the company treated me as if I were not at all important”.

Although 68 percent is a huge number, it is a number over which you now have the power to change. This is where the telephone is important. You see, perceived indifference is what you often hear on the phone on the first contact. If you don’t believe it, do some eavesdropping of your own and listen in on how your firm greets callers. It’s very likely that you will be surprised at what you hear!

I covered this in an article I wrote last week, Telephone Interrogation – why it’s bad for the health of your firm.

Martin Pollins
Latest posts by Martin Pollins (see all)

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: