I love email. I love SMS. But I hate, hate speaking on the phone. And I‘m sure I’m not alone here.
It’s not that I don’t like talking to people nor that I avoid big conversations, I just don’t want to do it on the phone. There seems to be a long term belief that if you want answers, develop relationships or efficiency you pick up the phone and have a chat. I don’t subscribe to it. It doesn’t work for me. There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, the phone is disruptive. If your phone rings, you feel compelled to stop whatever you’re doing and answer it. You can let it go to message bank but that means you just have to call back later and then you’re the disruptive one. The phone will ring when you are in the middle of a complicated spreadsheet, out at dinner with friends or changing a nappy – don’t even get me started on the real estate agent who called me at 7:30pm last Saturday night when the Broncos were going into a golden point. It’s a pretty rare moment that you are sitting around hoping that someone will call right this second. It’s usually disruptive. However, an email or an SMS can be answered at everyone’s convenience.
This brings me to distraction. Being slightly fidgety and a victim of information overload, it’s rare that I will just talk when I’m on the phone. I’ll usually be reading something on my desk, navigating peak hour traffic or chopping onions at the same time on my phone. Life’s too short just to talk when you can be doing so many other things at the same time! Suffice to say, I often miss key parts of conversation when I’m on the phone (which can then lead to another slightly more tense phone call). When writing an email or SMS, you give it attention and move on.
And then there is the routine. How many times do you do the niceties on the phone (“how was your day”, “what are you up to” or “how’s this heat!”) without really listening to the other person’s answers because you are really just asking about one specific thing? I do it all the time. I may just want to know if they can shoot a document through, ask if they can make it over for dinner or confirm an appointment, but there’s a whole bunch of mindless small talk (that neither enjoys) before you get to the purpose of the call. And I think this small talk is just to compensate for the disruption the phone call has caused! Not needed in email or SMS.
My last point is memorability. Read me out a shopping list, detail a budget or even supply an email address over the phone and I’ll forget it before I hang up. This may be a personal problem but if it’s in an email or SMS I’ll never forget. Conversations are recorded for future reference and things get done correctly the first time.
Phew, that felt good.
So do I use the phone? Of course. My grandma hasn’t got the internet or a mobile yet, I answer important calls from people who prefer to use the phone and there are some people far away that I like to hear their voices. Anything task based can be done with email or SMS but you still need face-to-face conversation to truly connect. And that’s my point. I like hearing people’s voices but would rather do it in person. Instead of spending a disrupted, distracted, routine and forgettable half hour on the phone, my preference is to catch up in real life. Of course, I’ll arrange this catch up via email or SMS but hey, I won’t waste any time doing it.
What do you think? Confessions of a phonophobe or a genuine communication trend?
Nathan Bush is BCM’s Head of Interactive Strategy