Did you know that the humble phone call is dying at a rate of c.2.5% fewer phone calls each year in the UK? This is particularly marked for a certain demographic; a 2018 study found that 25% of people had not made a single call from their mobile phone in the previous year.
I mean, I like a gif or a text like the next person but no calls whatsoever?? Wow!!
I must admit, I used to be a person who hated the thought of having to call someone else. I'd convince myself that an email was better because the recipient could read it at their leisure and that by writing it down I could articulate myself better whilst also creating an audit trail.
As a consequence I was writing hundreds of emails each day (sometimes with an ongoing back and forth) and successfully avoided using the phone for extended periods. A happy man I was, but was I effective? Looking back, this approach invariably drew out some exchanges much longer than they needed to be whilst for others it was actually beneficial so you win some, you lose some.
This approach was tested however when working with a very direct manager early on in my career and they insisted that I ring them instead of emailing. Looking back, it's amazing how trivial a statement like that can be, but to me at the time it was an Everest to overcome. Fortunately, a little bit of necessity is a great driver to change behaviours and, thanks to that manager, a new found love of the phone was born.
I realised how a phone call, if used correctly, could result in much quicker outcomes, be more personable, more secure and more memorable (think how infrequently you get calls nowadays that when you do they stand out - a bit like a pink shirt in an office). In fact this applied equally in my business and personal lives, so what had I been so afraid of?
A couple of incidents from my week gone by reminded me of the power of a phone call but that not everyone is comfortable with a call. With those in mind, I thought it a great idea to advocate it as a tool to aid effectiveness.
Now, don't get me wrong, it would be disingenuous of me to say that you should only ever use the phone to be effective. Au contraire, there are certain circumstances that it's not appropriate (e.g. at midnight to a client or to provide detailed technical advice, etc) but having it in your repertoire (like many other skills) is immensely useful.
Not only is the situation relevant but the person you want to communicate with also plays a massive part on selecting what communication method to use.
I recall reading a fascinating study from a few years back, where researchers took a group of diverse individuals and sent them simultaneous communications on a mobile phone. Each participant therefore received a phonecall, a text message, an email and a social media message (i.e. Facebook or Instagram or Whatsapp message) simultaneously from people they knew. Depending on their age and cultural background, they responded to each communication in a different order. The younger and more technologically exposed they were the more likely they were to respond to the social media message first and an email last; whilst the older and less tech savvy the reverse happened. Interestingly though in all groups the phone call was fairly quickly responded to (as measured not just by order of responding but time to respond to).
My key takeaway from this, is to really think about what you want to convey, what the situation is and crucially how the person you are communicating with likes to be contacted to be truly effective.
As with our experience of working with numerous organisations at Shiageto, we see people typically pick one communication style that they are most comfortable and rarely deviate from this. The truly effective people that we work with however flex their style and keep their skills on the other styles up-to-date as much as they can. [I'll be writing more about this in some upcoming blogs on influencing skills].
What does this mean for phone skills? Well, if you were like me, afraid of the phone, then I advocate practicing a few phone calls with a close friend so you can get more confident at it for when you do need to use it. And those who ain't afraid of no phone, then keep the skill up but make sure you're flexing your communication style.
As ever, if we at Shiageto can help, we're there by your side.
The only question that therefore remains is "Who you gonna call?"