Communicating in the New Millennium
Seriously, don’t phone me. I’m not going to answer. If you want to communicate with me spur of the moment, you need to either email me or do it through social media.
Communication preferences may vary from person to person, but you can be sure that for most, the telephone is sliding near the bottom of the list, at least for an initial contact.
While technology has made things way easier for us to talk to someone across the globe without leaving our kitchen table, reaching a person by telephone has become increasingly difficult.
You have twelve seconds to get my attention.
You end up playing telephone tag even when you make a personal call. So in business, it’s not unusual for most calls to filter through voicemail or an electronic gatekeeper with elongated telephone prompts to get you to the right desk where you can leave — a voicemail.
For over a decade now, the trend in business has been to downsize, hire consultants, and have fewer people doing the same work as three times the labor force. So while technology has made it easier for us to communicate and be readily available 24/7, it has also created less time. And what takes up a lot of time? The telephone.
I don’t have my notes in front of me, but in Jill Konrath’s book Snap Selling, she mentioned how managers have little time to listen to your spiel. You had five minutes, tops, to get your pitch out, if you were able to get through to the decision maker. Konrath adds in an interview with Selling Power that today, voicemail is the main gatekeeper. How you start your voicemail message will determine if it gets deleted or not.
There is more than one form of communication.
Some people like Coca Cola and some prefer Pepsi. You may be a telephone person, but the individual you are trying to connect with probably isn’t.
Consider these Kissmetrics statistics before you dial a number: 94% of marketing budgets are about getting the customer/client to call. Six percent of the budget is slated for when they do call. Meanwhile, if the consumer has to jump through the electronic “push one for … push two for …” hoop or leave a voicemail, 34% of them never call back after they hang up — and 74% of callers hang up on automated telephone systems, while 64% hang up if they can’t reach a live person.
I know there are people who are telephone people and that is the only way I can ever reach them. They usually don’t hear from me very often. Others I know if I email them, the message goes into a vast ocean of nothingness, never to be seen, ever. If you consider the setup of a smartphone or tablet, one has to open the email app to see and read an email or know there is a message there. While I can only speak for an Android device, the apps that notify you instantly when there is a message, right on the icon, are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Anna Johansson wrote in a Forbes column that workplace communications are shifting, and a lot of that has to do with the millennial workforce. We see it every day in every facet of our lives. We have stopped answering the telephone in lieu of more precise and non-verbal messaging, although video or audio web conferencing is starting to become commonplace.
Think outside the receiver.
There are so many ways to communicate now, it doesn’t even take much effort to find someone’s Twitter handle, their Facebook page, or their LinkedIn account. The links are usually posted on their website, along with their email address.
Even if you’re contacting someone for the first time, there are more channels to reach someone than by telephone. Many times, they will tell you how they prefer to be communicated with. Each platform has their own best practices of do’s and don’ts, so be wary of your first approach and make sure it opens a door rather than closes it.
Personally, my main communications tool for business and personal is Facebook Messenger and email, with LinkedIn and Twitter next in line. Facebook has made it so easy to communicate by private direct message, audio, or video calls, that one rarely ever needs a telephone anymore.
A telephone still has its place. Instead of slogging out text messages or emails back and forth, it is better to schedule a call for more direct communication for clarity. That said, Facebook Messenger has audio calls and so does Skype.
The bottom line is there are many ways to communicate and the best way to do it is by how the receiver wants to be contacted.
Debbie Elicksen is a digital publicist, writer, and marketing and transmedia strategist. She helps companies and entrepreneurs learn how to reinvent, promote, and grow their business using the free tools readily available. She has over 20 years of direct media experience: TV, print, radio, and Internet; is a former sportswriter; and has written and published 14 books. @bookpublish101