“Can This Teenager Use a Rotary Phone?” is the title of a challenge Ellen DeGeneres somewhat famously set up on her show, challenging a 17-year old San Clemente, CA high school senior to refold a paper road map, find the phone number for the “Golden Muffler” muffler shop in a Yellow Book yellow pages, and call the Golden Muffler shop using a rotary phone. As you’ll see, if you watch , it either did not go well or, as Ellen says at the end of the segment, it went “better than I could have ever hoped for.”
The student is energetic and dramatically expressive, making the challenge great fun to watch. The studio audience, almost all of them old enough to have learned how to do the three tasks, laughed with great delight, watching the struggle.
At the end, the student says, “My parents will be so disappointed.” Yeah… painful… as Ellen entertained her audience with a cheap, inter-generational laugh at the expense of a bright student (and, by implication, all of her peers).
At first, I laughed, too, thinking, “How could the student not know these things…” and then I quickly recalled my acute frustrations while configuring my TV set and the three remotes required to use it (all of which seems carefreely simple to my children). Shoe on other foot.
Imagine that the map, Yellow Book, and phone were what we sell – a remote deposit capture terminal, training programs, a smart phone, a printer, whatever. When we complete our sale, we turn to our clients and say, “You have this, right?” Because it’s, like, totally obvious what they should do and how they should use it, right? Absolutely! And, often, our clients say, “Yeah, I have it, I can figure it out” … and they don’t, or they struggle like the San Clemente high school student.
Had Ellen said to this student, “fold the map back on itself one section at a time, the Yellow Book is organized by product category, and pick the receiver up before you dial” (or, “here’s a phone, look it up on YouTube”), the challenge would have been… “no challenge”. There would have been no laughs, true, and the student would not have left the studio thinking “I looked the fool on national TV.”
Nick Miller trains banks and bankers to attract and expand relationships with business clients. More profitable relationships, faster. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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