This modern phone call culture

Photo: Seth Jones
Photo: Seth Jones
Photo: Seth Jones
Seth Jones

It seems like a lot of my friends are celebrating major life events lately, which is awesome. A longtime friend and his wife just welcomed their first child, and another friend told me his family is expecting baby No. 2. And this summer it seems there are at least two weddings to attend, with a third one imminent.

Not to be outdone, we recently had a major life event at the Jones household. Yeah, we’ve got a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old, but that doesn’t mean we’re boring. There’s still the occasional big news here.

It was last month that we welcomed the arrival of … my daughter’s first smartphone.

Trust me, this was a Very Big Deal. My daughter rapid-fire texted all her friends with the news. (But how did she already have all their phone numbers?)

The smartphone is something that always impresses me when it comes to how much it has changed our lives in a short amount of time. Remember when to meet someone out, you had to make plans in advance, then stick to the plan? Or when after you left the house, you were mostly unreachable until you got home?

I was having this conversation with Cheryl Claborn, membership director of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, at a recent trade show. We talked about how we’re all seemingly chained to our phones. If you miss a call or don’t reply right away to a text, you must either be mad at that person or dead. There’s no in-between.

A coincidence occurred after I left Cheryl’s booth — just a few booths down, I met Thomas Welsh, president of Voice for Turf — and we picked up right where Cheryl and I left off.

Voice for Turf is a company that delivers voice and data solutions for lawn care companies. The business began in the pest management industry, then sprouted up in lawn care because of the many companies worried about the complexities that go along with how people expect calls to be answered in our ultraconnected world.

“In this day and age, every business is bombarded with cold calls, robocalls and vendors calling in,” Welsh told me. “With the business operator trying to handle customer calls and prospect calls, that becomes daunting. If you’re not there, ready to handle the call, (customers) just call somebody else.”

Welsh told me it’s his job to “rescue” people from the chaos of our new phone call culture. For example, when the Voice for Turf system is integrated with an LCO’s customer database, calls that come in are instantly qualified as current customers, prospects, vendors or junk. While calls from current customers are connected with their information popping up on a computer screen, robocalls are sent to oblivion.

Welsh says that while the expectation of being attached to our phones has gotten out of control, the younger generation — like my daughter, eventually — will even further complicate things.

“Millennials are getting older and buying houses,” Welsh says. “So we’re bringing in solutions like web chats and texting. As we meet more people, we learn about their business and that allows us to bring more capabilities into our solutions beyond voice, in a very voice-heavy industry.”

The current headache of taking calls is just part of it. Making calls has also become more difficult. With robocalls becoming so prevalent, 75 percent of calls made to residences now go unanswered, Welsh says. While that’s a pain for us, it’s good for his business (his system detects when a real person answers the phone.)

But Welsh did have some good news — he says the days of robocalls are numbered.

“People should be looking for a technology called ‘SHAKEN’; it’s basically a technology where you can better authenticate where a call is coming from, like an electronic signature,” Welsh says. “This will be coming in a fairly short period of time.”

Hopefully it comes before the next major announcement from the Jones household — the day my son inherits his big sister’s smartphone. That is, if her phone isn’t obsolete by then.

Photo: Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. A graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Seth was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories.

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