Ever since the first recorded use of the telephone, it has served to create a demand - either explicit, like “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you”, or implicit – answer me now, because I’m ringing. Those of us who are Gen-X or older, have been trained by North American culture to treat the ringing phone with a reverent priority that is universally understood. So much so, we will often accept, for example, that a store clerk answers a ringing phone immediately instead of serving the next person in line.
Over the last 10 years in particular, this has changed significantly.
The advent of cell phones and caller ID have simultaneously provided the motivation and the ability to screen calls. With a cell phone, we’ve become ‘reachable’ 24x7. Few of us welcome all calls, all the time, so we’ve learned to cast a sceptical eye onto the screen for every call, judging by the scant information provided during ringing if it’s important enough to answer or leave it for the dreaded, and possibly ignored voicemail.
Even for those of us who cling to the landline, we’ve become inundated with nuisance calls. Easily half of the calls I receive at home are telemarketers, many of these outright fraudsters. Again, we’ve been trained to ignore any but the recognized and welcome callers. Why should anyone with your 10-digit number, or an auto-dialer that can cycle through all numbers rapidly and at minimal cost, have the ability to interrupt you anytime they like?
Millennials have been actively usurping the telephone call as the primary means of communication with a mobile device. In 2007, the number of text messages sent overtook the number of mobile phone calls made on a monthly basis, and the trend has not slowed down since.
There are several advantages to the text message – it’s fire-and-forget – allowing the sender to assume that a communication has not only been delivered, but understood. It doesn’t appear to demand your immediate attention, although recent studies show that many people experience dopamine release and are addicted to the immediacy of texting notifications – leading to one of the most significant growing dangers: texting-while-driving. It provides time to formulate a careful response.
In a recent article in the National Post, Joseph Brean describes how text notifications fulfill a psychological need and are addictive - not entirely by accident.
Unfortunately, the text message misses many important aspects of effective communication, and cannot replace a voice conversation for the speed of communication, delivery of tone, and immediate confirmation of not just the delivery of the message – but the receipt of the message both in understanding and appreciation.
So we have a problem – phone calls have become a cause for stress and anxiety, or are simply unwelcome leading to alternate, yet less effective (and sometimes dangerous – see texting-and-driving) forms of communication.
Unlike voicemail, texting, or even ‘instant’ messaging, voice is real-time and rich in information. The issue then is not voice – but how we’ve used phones to initiate voice calls since the first ringer was invented! The workflow paradigm, of dialing a number to ring someone’s phone because it’s convenient for you to speak to them at that moment is presumptive, if not arrogant, at its heart.
It’s time to formally kill the way we’ve used the telephone call for 140 years. The concept is obsolete. But texting, Instant Messaging, and email do not provide the replacement needed due to the simple lack of direct, honest interaction that voice calls provide. So what do we do?
Arranging phone calls in advance is part of the answer. People do that today using calendar applications and Office automation tools, such as Outlook, or Gmail. But many professionals can only use these for distant, future requests owing to the constant state of fully booked, and overbooked calendars. The typical workflow to arrange these meetings is anything but immediate, requiring meeting requests via email which may be read some time after the host would prefer.
When the calendared time arrives, typically the participants are reminded then have to execute several steps to conduct the phone call – particularly if they are attending a conference bridge.
Calendared meetings, even when the participants have the flexibility to accept the suggested meeting times, require many steps from each participant in order to attend. In other words, this is a much more taxing workflow than a simple phone call, introducing new challenges to replace the random yet relatively simple disruption of the unplanned call.
Stay tuned for a product announcement that solves these problems and more.