Something strange is going on with phone calls. It has become some kind of non-permissioned media.
The phone used to be a great tool for connection. And it still is, of course. We can talk, and be face to face if we want (Skype, etc.) across great distances and across time zones.
So why aren't we using it more?
Here's what I think is happening with communications media.
Point 1: We are all overloaded. Keeping up with communications is a major job. I've seen estimates that people working can spend a quarter of their day on e-mail. My take: they're showing a lot of discipline to keep it down to a quarter.
Point 2: The advent of social media meant that there are a bunch of new channels you are supposed to keep up with, either reading, or posting, or both.
Point 3: E-mail has turned out not to be a permission channel. People can get your address, and they do. Heck, we all do it. To the extent that having even a quarter of your recipients open your bulk e-mail is good. Just unsubscribing is a chore. Nope, it's not permission media. We sign up to get something, thinking to ourselves, "I'll unsub later", and then resenting having to unsub. And suspecting that half the unsolicited e-mail, the non-personal messages, were never requested or permitted at all.
Point 4: LinkedIn, and perhaps Facebook, are aiming to be the ultimate permission channel. You can't communicate if you aren't linked. Unless you pay for the privilege of course. Which could be their downfall if abused.
Point 5: Between the random digit dialing and the list selling and the sales calls, answering the phone has become something less than fun. Companies actively avoid releasing contact information. Not phone numbers. Not e-mails. Not even physical addresses! (I go through this challenge every year when I try to send physical holiday cards.) And who can blame them? Because we have created this monster called the script, and the sales call, and it's not the value-added message it's supposed to be.
Net result: Even though we want efficient communication (which the telephone certainly can be), we are collectively into the habit of walling ourselves off, of trying to shut down some of the communication. So we try to isolate and manage through e-mail, which initially seems faster. Of course it isn't, we all know that. You can spend a lot of time on e-mail resolving something easily resolved in a brief conversation.
A corollary to this little problem is voice-mail. How I used to love it, and how I hate it now. (Dear Skype, I don't want video voicemail. Seriously.)
We are all overloaded. So we are trying to isolate .... no buffer ... ourselves. And in the act of buffering, we have made things less efficient than they could be. Phone calls seem to be one of the casualties in this war for time and attention.
It all means ... that your well crafted marketing message, your amazing script ... is just ticking people off. We are all still working the sales funnel when we know the funnel is gone, gone, gone. It also means that we are all becoming seriously stressed out over the overload in communication. Or is it just the overload of messaging?
Where this could all be going ...
Have you read The Circle yet, by Dave Eggers? It's an interesting, rather creepy take on the end game of social media. A bit far-fetched, but also creepily and eerily familiar. I recognized my own obsessive checking of things. And the difficulty of getting productive work done when interrupted a gazillion times a day (by myself mostly) to check social media, e-mail, or something else.
What if we really had permission media?
If we really had permission media -- if you needed my consent to e-mail me -- what would that mean about the quality of the messages? What if the same thing were true of all communication channels? Interesting little thought experiment I invite you to try.
Personally, I'm resolving to try to make my communications more pertinent, more relevant, and shorter. And I swear I will try to pick up the phone more often.