“Nobody calls me anymore” starts a recent article in the New York Times. While I can’t quite make that statement, I do agree that I make and receive fewer phone calls than ever, and I like it that way. I am not alone. Clive Thompson from Wired cites Nielsen, reporting that the number of cell phone calls we make is decreasing yearly, with a corresponding increase in the number of emails, texts, and instant messages.
While I personally celebrate this trend, it does raise an important question for sales and marketing types. Many, like me, were raised on phone calls – calling our customers was the best way to communicate with them in the days before email, IM, and social media. If they called us…well, that was just the greatest thing ever. Marketers reserved the right to crank up telemarketing campaigns complete with crafty strategies about getting around receptionists, leaving provocative voice mail messages, and creating scheduled follow-up calls.
It’s time to get over the phone. Sure, it still has its place for personal conversations and I love a good Skype session (video adds greater depth to the communication), but traditional telephone use as we know it is slowly becoming obsolete.
To many, phone calls are disruptive – they violate the cardinal law of ‘perfect timing’ when disseminating marketing messages to the customer. People want the information they want WHEN they want it – not on YOUR schedule.
Phone calls are also useless as reference material. Consumers today expect to be able to set aside your information and come back to it when they need it (e-mail, anyone?). E-mail makes it easier to follow the paper trail. You can’t archive a phone call, at least not without creating more hassle for yourself.
It’s critical that we start engaging with our communities using the methods that THEY are responding to today. And, of course, that is socially– in communities like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others.
This change in communication necessitates a major shift in our processes and our infrastructure. So, our campaigns, our content, and our systems look different. But that doesn’t change our strategy, which remains: right time, right person, right message.
What about you? Love the phone? Hate it? How are you adapting?