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About this video

An etiquette film in which a regular Joe — or in this case, a hapless Howard — has to put himself in the shoes of many different employees within the company at which he works, in order to learn a valuable lesson about communication via telephone. The film, Freaky-Friday style, has Howard inhabiting the bodies of the boss & the stockroom guy, then ranging further afield to step into the shoes of a hotel clerk, train clerk, classified ad rep, and as a clincher, has to talk to his own cranky self. He's guided by a ghost telephone with the voice of a woman.

The basic point that this film makes is communicating via telephone turns everyone into a customer service rep — that the skills that a rep would use, like empathy and courtesy, are the best qualities to project during a phone call. Talking to people over the telephone can be, according to the film, a "pleasant, warm experience." The nicer people are on the phone, then the more people want to call and be called.

The film was part of a curriculum designed by the Bell System to promote good phone skills amongst high school students. The goal was vocational: the curriculum was tested in Baltimore, after questionnaires given to employers by the school system had turned up complaints that recent graduates did not know how to use the telephone properly. The telephone program was 10 days long, and included two films: "Telephone Courtesy", and this one — plus short readings, a lesson, and test calls using teaching equipment kits provided by the Bell System. The kit was called the Teletrainer, and included phones and a small amplifier/control unit. (Here is a detailed examination of a later, 1960s Teletrainer.) AT&T made teletrainers up until at least the 1980s.

A Pathescope Production, for the Bell System.

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

Release date: 07/02/2012

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