Why The Phone Is Making A Comeback In The Twitter Age (Spoiler Alert-The Answer Is Not The iPhone 5)
I use the phone less and less. I read that the cell phone carriers were moving toward unlimited voice plans, since data was the bigger driver of smartphone use, so I texted my wife a hyperlink of the article. I check my email every six seconds just in case I missed the “beep” on my device.
Then, I noticed an email with a missed call on my home line from my son’s school. (This always makes me nervous since they don’t call unless it’s important.) I tried my wife to see what they wanted. No answer. I called the school.
I go through a myriad of options on the auto attendant. None of them are the “you guys called…what’s up option.” I hit zero, someone picks up, says she can’t help and that I have to call the other building. Now I am mad. I call the other building and no one picks up so I hit zero and get back to the same lady who told me to hang up and call this other number.
She finally gets someone who knows what’s going on and it turns out to be nothing. It took hearing that on the phone, to relax.
Well, that’s family, but what about real business? The car industry always amazes me. They spend this huge amount of money building brand, all this money on advertising with phone numbers to call about the latest deals, and then when you do call, no one picks up! They build these gorgeous showrooms but my first impression of them was not the lobby, it was the phone. And it was a bad impression.
The smartest companies are using the phone to combat the disconnectedness we sometimes feel in the Internet age. The level of comfort we feel when we call customer service and hear a friendly voice on the other end that is sympathetic to my problem and is there to help me. If I just need to track my package, I don’t need to talk to someone.
If it’s important, we call.
As the volume of phone calls goes down, their importance goes up. If it wasn’t really important, they would have just emailed me right?
ShoreTel’s customers get this. They live and die on the phone. They sell on the phone. They service their customer on the phone. They collaborate with each other on the phone, and with the advent of mobile unified communications, their desk phone now works flawlessly with the rest of their collaborations tools (IM, conferencing, and their smartphone doubles as their desk phone in a pinch.)
The answer is not to use the phone less. It’s to use the phone better.
It’s the realization that sometimes what you have been looking for has been right in front of you the whole time. The advent of mobile UC has helped showcase the companies which LISTEN to their customers and employees, and who differentiate themselves in a “me too” environment. The phone has to integrate into your business applications because we need better information when we are on the phone to be more responsive.
The intimacy of the phone and the feelings we associate with it will never be replicated by email. The feeling I had when I got the call from my boss telling me he wanted me to work for him. The sound of my dad’s voice when he finally reached me on my cell when the World Trade Center towers fell. The anxiousness not allowing me to sleep until the hospital called with the results of my wife’s blood work. The comfort I felt speaking to the travel agent who got me rebooked when I absolutely had to get home.
Maybe we should use the phone more.
Maybe we should talk to each other instead of lengthy email discussions. Maybe unified communications is just the excuse we need to actually communicate more.