Call Me Maybe (But I’d Rather You Didn’t)
By: Ilan MannMay 12, 2020
If you were to ask Millennials or Gen Z (defined as those born between 1980 and the early 2010’s) how they feel about receiving phone calls, they would likely rank the experience as one of the biggest inconveniences you can thrust upon someone.
It’s a notable difference between generations, one that I especially notice with my father, who calls me several times during the day with small pieces of information that could easily be delivered over text – and while he sees calling me up to communicate verbally as a quicker, more efficient method, I see it as an interruption. I’m forced to drop everything I’m doing in order to talk to him for a couple of minutes, whereas my fingers could have rattled off a response to whatever question he had in a matter of seconds.
From my father’s perspective, verbally asking me or telling me whatever he needs to is faster, but in reality, the two versions of the conversation play out as follows:
Dad: “Garbage day today. Bring down your bin.”
Dad: “Hey, what’s happening? what’s shaking? what’s going on?”
Me: “Not much, how about you?”
Dad: “Not much, uhhhh I just wanted to remind you that today’s garbage day”
Me: “Ok, alright”
Dad: “So make sure you bring down whatever you’ve got in your room, any wrappers, bottles, that sort of thing”
Me: “Yeah, no problem, sounds good”
Dad: “Ok, cool, uhh… oh, I finally finished season 3 of-”
And so on and so forth.
While I don’t by any means mind having full conversations, in a world where we’re constantly multitasking and juggling multiple conversations at once, phone calls are seen as inconveniences for the younger generations, as they force everything else to be put on hold. For the generations that grew up without email and instant messaging, communicating verbally is what they know best. It is significantly easier for them to articulate themselves verbally. This is especially true for those who aren’t as acclimatized to the small keyboards on most smartphones, or those who have trouble seeing the screen in front of them to begin with.
Of course, these are generalizations that don’t necessarily apply to everyone, but I believe that it speaks more to those who did grow up with technology – the difference between the two conversation examples I gave above lies in efficiency.
Imagine that your phone rang, and when you answered it, all you heard was “get milk on the way home,” followed by the click of someone hanging up. It would be jarring, and you’d probably feel it was a bit rude. That kind of bluntness is acceptable in today’s culture of quick, back-and-forth texting, and it’s the necessity of those pleasantries on the phone that often makes phone calls feel so taxing for today’s youth, and leads to them avoiding them at all costs.
As a matter of fact, a new survey from BankMyCell indicates that not only are millennials ignoring phone calls, but their reasons are often related to time consumption, or avoiding confrontation and interaction with people such as telemarketers. Millennials usually ignore unknown numbers altogether
So the question becomes, in a world where phone calls are seen as an interruption, and immediately put the person on the receiving end in a negative mood, how does one reach clients in a unique and effective way? With all the notifications coming through on our phones and laptops- whether from iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or our emails – messages from unknown parties get lost in the shuffle. Unless you’re attempting to get in contact with a personal friend, you might find it a bit more difficult to reach them than you’d initially think.
While mail is a great and effective way to reach the younger generation, not just any mail will do. Speaking from personal experience, when I see a grey envelope with my name showing through the thin strip of plastic, I immediately assume it’s some useless (other otherwise boring) information from my bank. However seeing a white envelope with my name and address scribbled across the front in pen gets me excited. Mail, for me? What a pleasant surprise – is there an event? Am I being invited somewhere? It’s not the contents of the message, but how they’re delivered. You could send me the same information over email, in a printed beige envelope, or as a handwritten letter, but only for the last of those will I be excited to see what’s inside.
This is because technology has moved past the need for letters, allowing us to communicate with others across the world in an instant. This makes letters as we know them scarce, as society pivots into the digital age. These advances in technology, however, have been unable to replicate arguably the most important aspect of handwritten letters: intimacy. A letter is an indication of importance – why take the time to write something down by hand that could be typed out in a matter of seconds with a keyboard? Why take the time to have it go through a post office, when the internet can transmit your message and a response back in an instant? Because handwritten letters mean something, and when social interaction has become so easy to the point of tediousness, sometimes it’s better to take a step back and reach your clients with something more authentic.. Not only will your clients be enthused to open their mail -significantly more so than opening an email – but they will be able to process the information without the burden of being forced to give an immediate answer over the phone.