The death of a phone call.

Several weeks ago, when I was teaching a six-week freshman college course at a well-known Boston business school, I asked the students if they would be leveraging the use of calling someone on the phone as part of their set-up for their upcoming assignment. I knew I was asking a rhetorical question, but I wanted to have actual evidence to support my theory of what their response would be. For additional context, there are 36 students in this class, and not one of them raised their hand when I asked them if they were going to call someone to set-up their assignment to meet with someone.

The next question I asked them was “would they be texting or emailing the people they were going to be meeting with?” Most indicated they were going to leverage email. After I had the results of how the students were going to proceed, I asked them to consider the odds of their success in terms of reaching the recipients. This is a critical factor because the assignment was time sensitive, and the chances of the email containing this fact in the subject line may not have been considered for inclusion.

My third question for the students to consider was whether they thought they could have a higher rate of success with making a phone call versus emailing the person they were attempting to connect with. What I pointed out about leveraging the phone versus email was not a factor the students had considered. It was the fact that most of the people they were reaching out to were one or more decades older than them, and that the phone might be both a preferred method of communication for them, and provided them with a higher percentage of successfully reaching the person. Let’s call this 50% versus an unknown, and likely lower response rate if email was leveraged.

During my discussion about this topic, I also suggested to the students that there was no guarantee the person they were reaching out to would see or respond to their email. If they did, it also may not have been responded to in a timely manner. Especially if they didn’t know the person that well.  The other factor the students had not considered was the fact that calling someone increased the odds of reaching them in their favor. This is namely because people receive fewer phone calls now than they did a decade or more ago. I also pointed out that if they had to leave a voicemail, they could also provide a more human connection to supporting why they were calling the person. This in turn would also increase the chances of the person calling them back.

After sharing why, a phone call might offer better results in reaching people, the next challenge from the students; not surprisingly, occurred. The challenge they brought up was that they didn’t know what they would say during a phone call, and this was followed by their collective response that they were going to need to have a script about what to say. Upon considering this expected challenge, it brought me back to thinking about the hundreds of scripts I had written for sales teams in the past. Comparing the ages of the sales teams to the freshman college students in some cases provided only a 4–10-year age difference. The salespeople in this 20–30-decade bracket were typically in business development roles, but both these salespeople and the freshman students shared something in common.

What they had in common relates to a well-known concept referred to as “call reluctance”. If you have not had experience with sales teams, this phenomenon of not feeling comfortable calling someone without a script is a typical challenge. Call reluctance also occurs when someone isn’t practiced in the art of conversation, and potentially has a lower confidence level in themselves, or this ability. The same can be applied to why the freshman didn’t want to use the phone as a tool to help them complete their assignment, in addition to a general lack of interest in using it as a preferred communication tool.

Of course, there are other obvious reasons people in the Gen Z and Millennial generations are not as inclined to use the phone to talk to people, but arguably their lack of practice and comfort in this area has contributed to what I’m referring to as “the death of a phone call”. It has also contributed to other less than desirable outcomes including having these generations feel more isolated and lacking the skills to communicate well with others, and with ease. Numerous studies have been completed to also confirm that the impact social media has had on these generations has also contributed to the demise in either face to face, or verbal conversations being a strong skillset.

So, given the fact that fewer Gen Z and Millennials are practiced at using the phone as a tool to communicate, what if there were some intriguing ways to get them to reconsider this as a method which could serve them, or their employers well? Included below are some suggestions for leaders, sports coaches and the people in the generations referenced who might want to add what would be an old-fashioned, yet always in vogue skillset to their life…communication.

  • Let’s first consider and re-orient how people who don’t use the phone can think about a clear advantage of doing so and what it will offer them. The advantage is that doing so will increase their communication skills, and many people will benefit from this.
  • Anything new that we do will always be more difficult to accomplish at first. So, factor in that it will take practice to become better at conversing on the phone. The good news is that phone conversations don’t have to be lengthy.
  • Compared to Zoom calls, phone calls can be much less energy draining or tiring. One of the main reasons is because you need to pay more attention both visually and verbally when you are on Zoom, and this will more quickly deplete your energy level than a phone call will.
  • Any visual biases that are going to negatively impact you are not going to be factored into a phone call, and for most people, they are also less distracted and more focused when they are exclusively focused on talking.
  • Instead of texting, and leaving room for misinterpretation with your communications, try having a quick phone call, and be prepared to fifty percent of the time or more need to leave a compelling voice mail. A voice message has greater influence power than a text and offers a much more personal interaction which could be more compelling to listen and respond to.
  • Experiment with which outreach communication methods offer you better results. There will be instances that some methods are going to be clear winners.

Although the freshman students in my class may have reluctantly leveraged the phone as a communication tool, my intent was to get them to not be fully dismissive of a tool that in the right circumstances, could in fact serve them better.

TAGS: #Communication #Leadership #Leader #Leaders #Sportscoach #GenZ #Millennials #Powerfulcummunication #Businesstips #Teams #Teamdynamics #Sales #Salesleadership #Strategy #Management

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