- Mary Jane Copps set up The Phone Lady consultancy to help people improve their phone etiquette.
- Copps trains Gen Z workers who are afraid to use the phone because they’re so used to texting.
- Her work involves helping people overcome their “phone phobia” and have better conversations.
Smartphones can do lots of things – but plenty of users make very few actual phone calls on them, if any at all.
That’s left many younger workers lacking the confidence to speak effectively on the phone at work.
Mary Jane Copps spotted the rise of “phone phobia” 16 years ago and set up a consultancy called The Phone Lady to help companies improve the telephone skills of their staff.
“Gen Z have never had the skills given to them,” she told Insider. “In my generation, the phone was on the wall in everyone’s house and we were taught to answer it and make calls at a young age.
“Now we have several generations that were never taught anything about talking on the phone and people have removed phones from their homes.”
Alison Papadakis, director of clinical psychological studies at Johns Hopkins University, told Insider that phone phobia was more common in younger generations.
She said: “Gen Z and millennials have a lot less experience talking on the phone because texting and instant messaging have been the primary communication mode for their generation. Since they have a lot less experience talking on the phone, they have less comfort with it . That sets up people who are vulnerable to social anxiety to have anxiety in that situation.”
Copps charges $480 an hour for one-on-one coaching and $365 for 30-minute webinars as part of a seven-part program. For corporate workshops, the daily rate is $3,500. Insider has verified these figures using redacted invoices supplied by Copps.
Many of Copps’ clients are in the financial sector or start-ups. Here first step is working out why an individual is anxious about phone calls.
“A common fear is ‘what if someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer’,” she said. “I often say ‘for the next three days, I don’t want you to text anyone’, and tell them to call their friends and family.
“If they’re not even used to talking on the phone to their mother then the process is so scary. So I can’t say I’m going to make them call prospective clients as they would just fall apart — we start with their family or someone they know.”
Improvising on a call can be scary, so her approach involves using role play. “If people aren’t ready to answer the phone, I set up a time where I randomly call them throughout the day and have practice conversations,” Copps said.
“You can’t build a relationship by email because it’s not back and forth and you’re not hearing each other’s tone of voice,” she said, adding that phone calls are “crucial in order to express interest and enthusiasm.”