It's wrong to say "we don’t talk anymore"

Whilst the overall number of call minutes is declining year on year – the importance of those calls to businesses and users is actually becoming greater. With an abundance of media available to communicate with people the telephone call is actually the guided-missile of communication; used to persuade, cajole and convince with the immediacy lacking in other comms media.

It is well documented by industry analysts and the OFCom Market Report that calls from traditional telephone lines have been declining over the last decade as users have migrated to mobile devices and increasingly to VoIP and SIP. There is also the migration to video, IM, email and all the other application based messaging services from LinkedIn to WhatsApp the use of which is replacing the need for many routine phone calls and is likely to increase further as Millennials enter the workforce.

People are communicating more by more diverse media, applications and devices which means that phone calls are reserved for specific tasks and applications where callers either want to use the power and nuance of the spoken word, or listen for the same. We can all think of our own reasons for making a call, whether it be:

  • To avoid misunderstanding or to be more persuasive.
  • Ensure there is a shared understanding of the subtleties of a situation
  • Where immediacy is required, to complete a transaction, gain feedback or agreement.

It is a truism that people-buy-from-people and for that to happen requires a conversation and process  with genuine interaction and follow-up. The most powerful way of doing this is face-to-face, but the phone call is the nearest substitute and cannot be replaced by email or IM no matter how polished they may be. As an example, I was recently in a car dealership for a well-known German car manufacturer and, noticed the sales team making calls. What piqued my interest was that if the call went unanswered they used their iPhone to record a video message and emailed this to the prospect. Sure enough, a few days later I had a missed call and an email with a video attached, which I chose not to download over 4G, and a week later deleted it from my Inbox as part of routine housekeeping. Not nearly as effective as a conversation would have been.

As calls migrate to IP and 4G we are seeing a change in call behaviour, as shown in the table below, where calls are lasting longer, with the exception of conferencing calls. As behaviour changes with the telephone used as a tool to achieve certain objectives and certain types of interaction this change means that Conference Calls are also becoming more focussed. Through a combination of more productive tools such as screen sharing and changes in behaviour conference calls are taking less time to achieve the same outcomes.

 Average call duration

Source: Voice Product Management, Maintel 

As Millennials begin to enter the workforce, with their increased reliance and use of social media, blogging and messaging applications, is it safe to say the above will continue to apply? After all, they are still people, and as I said at the start of this blog “people-buy-from-people.”

 The Millennial will research more online and blog about it afterwards but when they want clarity or persuasion these new entrants to the workforce will do what previous generations have always done; they will click on their dial-pad, adjust their Bluetooth headset and make that call.