Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Real-time research

Can you type and talk at the same time?

I once had a help desk job that required taking notes on a computer while talking to the people who called us. We used abbreviations for some common phrases (such as whbd for "what has been done"), and we didn't bother with capitalization, but we summarized the conversation and recorded key details during the call. The key piece of equipment that made it work was the telephone headset, which gave us both hands for the computer and better sound quality for the phone call. Today's wireless headsets are even better, allowing movement around the room during a call.

How is that useful away from the help desk? When I have telephone conversations, I usually have a browser open. I can perform a quick search on the people and topics that come up and get more information while still in the conversation. I can look at company web sites when I talk to their people, and I can conduct a quick background check on cold callers. I get the benefit of some of the research I could do after the call without having to wait, which can change how I conduct the call.

Sometimes, it's not what you know, it's what you can look up. Just don't get so distracted by the computer that you fall out of the conversation on the phone. People can't really multitask, so this is only productive if your online activities mesh with your conversation. If the computer distracts you from the call too much, remember which connection includes an actual person and focus on the call.


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