Market musings

Why Millennials Hate Phone Calls (and How to Change This)

by Nina Quasebarth
February 25, 2017

Are you old enough to remember when the telephone was your lifeline to friends and family? Can you recall the generation before the Web, when teens would spend hours on the phone?

In a strange turn of events, as smartphone popularity grows, demand for phone calls drops conversely. And millennials have turned (sometimes almost entirely) to texting. In fact, millennials have actually become reluctant to initiate telephone contact, preferring text or email for communication, which is creating new communications challenges for today’s business.

We’ve all witnessed this change. Millennials can be seen on the bus or walking down the street, thumbs flying across their smartphone keyboard as they send updates and photos to friends.

A Gallup poll shows that text messages now outrank phone calls as the number-one form of communication for millennials.

Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 68 percent say they text “a lot,” whereas only 47 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and 26 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds say they text a lot. Use of voice minutes is falling, while mobile data use is soaring as millennials send from 600 to 1,400 texts each month.

Why millennials never call

At times, it seems millennials have become veritable “telephone-phobes” who would like to avoid real-time human connection through the phone at all costs. But why exactly do millennials hate to make phone calls? Experts cite a number of reasons:

The luxury of asynchronous communication – For one thing, we have all become spoiled by time-shifted communication. We no longer have to respond in the moment, not as long as we have email and text to craft a more thoughtful response. People agonize over drafting just the right email to their boss or friends to make sure it imparts the right information and the right tone. Once you have had the luxury of taking the time to create a well-thought-out email, an anxiety factor may come into play when considering responding to a phone call.

Broadcasting in sound bites – One of the changes brought on by text messages and social media is succinctness. Millennials are learning to express themselves in 140 characters or fewer. They want to distill communication and impart meaning in as few words (and emojis) as possible. Phone calls impart information in a different way, because conversation is made up of more than sound bites. Millennials want to get to the point, without the extras.

Lack of a written record – Creating a text string or email trail clarifies understanding and provides a written record as a defense for a statement or position. Having a documented exchange is thought to lead to better communication and reinforce clearer understanding.

Fear of phone faux pas – Like everyone else, millennials fear social failure or being publicly embarrassed. A telephone conversation presents the danger of saying the wrong thing, hurting someone’s feelings, or being misunderstood, which is why many millennials prefer to text and email. A carefully crafted message provides more time for building context, and you don’t have to deal with the emotional consequences in real time.

Avoiding wasted time – Believe it or not, many millennials consider phone calls to be an imposition on the other party’s time. This may be an extension of time-shifting communication (i.e., relying on delayed interaction rather than conversation in real time), but many millennials will email or text first, asking permission to initiate a telephone call.

It’s interesting that, in the end, the millennial attitude about telephone calls has a lot to do with manners. There are so many channels of communication available that staying in touch is easier than ever, but making a telephone call is seen as more of an event. Rather than just picking up the phone, you want to alert the other party to a pending phone call to give him or her a chance to prepare, just as he or she would with a written communication. At the same time, written communication allows you to hide emotional response, whereas a telephone call provides a means of vocal expression that imparts emotion. It’s the emotional traps that people want to avoid.

Getting millennials back on the phone

As a business owner, you need to get millennial employees back on the phone to promote teamwork and quickly resolve routine issues. Employees are already using their smartphones for texting, email access, and Web surfing—why not for business telecommunications as well?

The company phone system is still a critical part of any business’s operations.

Customers still call for support, and prospects still call first when they are looking for a new vendor. Employees have to be ready to answer those calls directly rather than send an email or text.

Similarly, routine business issues can be quickly and efficiently addressed in a phone call. Calling a colleague or manager with a question is faster and often more efficient than generating an email thread. And the telephone is the best tool for collaboration, especially for remote workers and telecommuters.

Allowing employees to use their own smartphones for business is one way to ensure more telephone usage. Millennials use their smartphones for everything. In fact, research shows that 39 percent of millennials interact more with their smartphones than they do with people, so encouraging them to use their smartphones for business makes perfect sense. Plus, smartphones provide access to email, data, and even video conferencing in the same handheld device.

To learn more about how Spoke can convert your mobile phone network into a powerful VoIP phone system for a fraction of the cost of hosted PBX or a traditional VoIP service providers, port your number over for a free, no risk trial, or choose a virtual business phone line. To learn more about how Spoke works, visit our features page or contact us for a free demo.