Today we are swamped with a plethora of digital tools to communicate with one another, from Whatsapp, texting, Facebook, Instagram, to email, and much more.
We are led to believe that these technologies make communications easier but at the same time we are bombarded with messages daily where instant responses are the norm. This multi-tasking is overwhelming and the lack of focus affects our productivity at work and at home.
People are no longer reaching for the phone and it is fast becoming the lost art of communication. Are we getting lost in the digital noise that surrounds us? Is it time to rediscover the power of voice?
Lack of focus
There are over 20 billion devices connected to the internet today. That equates to three devices for every single person (Gartner). With this mind-blowing statistic, it is not surprising that many people suffer from nomophobia (smartphone addiction).
Let’s face it, if the majority of the workforce are constantly checking Instagram, Facebook, and their messages while trying to work, it’s clear productivity levels will reduce. People now multi-tasking more than ever and instant responses to messages are expected. A total of 83 percent of millennials open text messages within 90 seconds of receiving (Openmarket research), and as they are a generation of instant gratification, naturally they expect an instant response. This results in lack of focus, which leads to jobs being half done or not finished, therefore reducing efficiencies and productivity.
Drowning in Emails
Let’s not just blame social media and messaging applications such as Whatsapp – email is also a major culprit. We send roughly 281.1 billion emails a day, a figure that is estimated to increase to 333.2 billion by 2022, according to Statista. Therefore, we would expect that emails often get ignored, deleted or end up in the junk box. Emails are not the most effective way to communicate and it is much easier to use other tools such as picking up the phone.
Digital noise is ubiquitous and we are beginning to get lost in the abyss. Companies are reverting back to using direct marketing campaigns as they are tangible and cut through the digital noise.
Millennials and Generation Z are referred to as Generation Mute because they rarely use the phone to call people, if at all. Bankmycell discovered that 75 percent of Millennials don’t use the phone to make calls as it is too time consuming; instead they much prefer to text, use social media, or send an email than to pick up the phone. Eight-one percent of respondents also acknowledged that they often feel anxious about talking on the phone – indeed, that they sometimes must work up the courage to do so (Bankmycell).
Employer Skills UK discovered that one-in-three job applications don’t have the oral communications skills they require. Naturally, this is an issue for businesses – what was once an expected basic skill has now been eradicated and unbelievably some new recruits are taught how to answer and speak on the phone.
Is it time to come full circle and encourage people to speak on the phone more, and dare I say it – to have more meetings face to face, or at least a video call? While there is no doubt that we have gained tremendously from digital communication tools like Instant Messenger, backed by Millennials and Generation Z in the workplace, we also must be careful not to lose our basic communications and social skills of speaking to people over the phone and face to face.
When and why face-to-face and phone calls cut it
The Harvard Business Review recently discovered that face-to-face requests were 34 times likely to garner a more positive response than emails. So why is face-to-face and over the phone or video communications more effective, and in what situations should we use it over digital communications?
1. When speaking to someone directly, either face-to-face or over the phone, we develop a personal connection with them which is important for communications.
2. We can read people’s body language, understand their tone of voice, expressions and emotions
3. In face-to-face meetings, or over the phone, conversation is natural and fluid.
4. Create a good impression on someone, whether it’s a new or existing client. It’s easier face-to-face or on the phone than over email or messages.
5. Relationships can be strengthened with the connections made in the meeting, with small talk, humour, and a deeper conversation.
6. Clarity! Face-to-face and phone conversations are much clearer with less margin for misinterpretation. Communications over digital communications tools are often unclear and lost in translation.
7. Trust and authenticity are also built more quickly with face-to-face or phone conversations rather than text.
8. Believe it or not, issues are resolved more quickly with face-to-face meetings and phone calls as they are often shorter, as opposed to long email trails and messages.
Meeting someone face to face or phoning them is more time consuming, but it is worth the extra effort. After all, you only get back what you put in.
When should you meet, or make a phone or video call?
1. When you need to resolve something urgently that is rather complex. It’s often easier to get results face-to-face or over the phone as you can talk around the issues seeking for a solution.
2. When you are meeting a new client – if you are meeting a new customer or a prospect then it is a good idea to meet with them so they can see who you are and you can spend some time going through your proposal and getting to know them.
3. When you are chasing someone – if a client or employee has been ignoring your emails and messages then pick up the phone and talk to them about it. It will be much quicker.
4. There are times when you must deliver bad news or discuss something personal and empathy is required. This can only be achieved in a face-to-face meeting or on a phone call.
5. When you want to catch up – you have a business issue to chat through and also it’s been a while since you spoke to the person so you want to catch up with them
Look through the digital noise and out onto the horizon of clarity, and next time you are about to fire off an email or instant message, think for a second would this be better communicated by speaking to someone.
If so then arrange a meeting, take time and have lunch with them, pick up the phone, or make a video call. By choosing the right tool to communicate with, your productivity will increase and you will get the results you want.
Human and social connection is important, let’s not lose that basic skill and let digital tools take over our communications. Sometimes an emoji just won’t cut it!