Introducing ‘Generation Text’

Hanging up on voice calls

July 17th 2017 

Thanks to texts, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and more, mobile voice calls are being rendered obsolete, with a knock-on effect for consumers and enterprises.

Slate writer, Timothy Noah, reflects on the trend in an insightful piece entitled The Death of the Telephone Call. It was back in 2007 that users first sent more texts than they made phone calls. Since then calls have pretty much diminished with each passing year, with millennials’ preference for text over voice adding a final nail to the coffin.

Noah concludes the rise of text has resulted in poor customer service:

“Today ‘customer service’ means you send email or a text into a void where no one can hear you scream,” he writes. “Today it’s a cinch to Google Amazon’s customer service number, but that ease is illusory, because once you dial it you enter an automated-menu labyrinth that would put the Minotaur to shame.”

Writing for The Guardian, Daisy Buchanan dissects the reason why millennials are so averse to telephone calls in an article titled Wondering why that millennial won’t take your phone call? Here’s why... It’s partly, she opines, due to the huge variety of alternative ways to communicate, however, something more fundamental is happening too.

For ‘Generation Text’, a call means more than just a chat: “It’s fair to say that young people can still see the value of a phone call, but perhaps we understand it as something serious and significant, to be used in much more specific contexts and shared with a select group of people,” writes Buchanan. “We all have an inner circle who would be allowed to interrupt us for a chat when we’re in the middle of making jam. Everyone else will have to make do with a message.”

An aversion to chatting on the phone presents a challenge to employers and potential employees, concludes Jackie Crosby in a Star Tribune article appropriately titled Phone skills a major work hang-up for millennials. The problem has even led to schemes in the USA where students are schooled in the dying art of the telephone call.

Management consultant, Stephen Blair Venable, tells Crosby that enterprises should be willing to assist in getting phone skills up to scratch:

“Like it or not, you need to learn how to answer the phone and be good on the phone. Millennials do need to do some adjusting. But at the same time, corporations need to understand it doesn’t serve any of us well just to sort of complain that ‘They don’t know.’ No one is better suited to teach them than the corporate entity itself.”

Forbes article Why Millennials Are Texting More And Talking Less also notes the trend:

 “Texting poses further problems for professions that rely on the gift of the gab,” writes journalist Neil Howe. “Personal rapport, for example, is key to successful sales pitches – a fact that has led some firms to hire consultants to help millennial staffers feel more comfortable on the phone.”

Interestingly, Howe reveals that JP Morgan took the opposite approach. Instead of encouraging millennials to use their phones, in 2015 the firm disabled voicemail for employees – mostly under the age of 40 – who preferred text communication. This resulted in savings of $3m (£2.3m).

As countless motivational speakers once said, it’s best to concentrate on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Consequently, and in contrary to Noah’s claims, more and more organisations are catching on to millennials’ skills at text communication.

In an article called Why Millennials are Your Customer Service Secret Weapon, Salesforce cites the benefits of placing young people behind the keyboard of corporate social media accounts. Not only are they keen to solve problems fast, but they’re more adept than other generations at engaging with customers over the internet.

Recognising this potential, Delta Airline’s 40-strong social media support team can help with reservation requests and flight information. Similarly, our very own @VMB_Enterprise @vmbusiness Twitter accounts are presided over by a team of charming, savvy millennials.

“Your customers will appreciate representatives who are technologically savvy, speak to them as though they are sympathetic friends, and have the power to solve problems as quickly as possible,” writes Saleforce’s Kelsey Jones. “More freedom given to customer service employees means faster problem solving and more company resources spent on growing the business.”

And as any millennial will tell you, that’s not just a #win for ‘Generation Text’.

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