Writer Joel Stein’s recent article in Time Magazine entitled ‘The Me Me Me Generation’ was well-written if not incomplete. We’ve all seen examples of narcissistic teens and twenty-somethings but as a generational group they hardly are unique as I’ve seen many forty and fifty- somethings who would give Millenials a run for their money when it comes to being self-absorbed. One important thing Mr. Stein did not offer when it comes to Millenials is their somewhat collective lack of desire to engage in talking on the phone – smartphone or otherwise.
Unlike Mr. Stein, I do not have statistics and my observations and those of my friends who are parents of Millenials coincide into an opinion that Millenials seem to have little desire to engage with people that they do not know via phone. Since one cannot send an SMS text message to a non-mobile device it means that in order to get information from an entity with whom you need to connect you have options such as browsing the web to try to get the information or sending an email. But as we all know too well that does not always work. Sometimes you just have to pick up the phone and call.
I’ve witnessed on a number of occasions Millenials receiving phone calls and intentionally ignoring them and then never listening to the message since they don’t recognize the phone number. Oftentimes they won’t listen to the message even if they do recognize the phone number. They’ll just call you back – maybe. I realize that the formative experiences of older people like myself are so completely different as I grew up in the age of no caller ID – the phone rang, you did not know who was on the other end but you answered it. Millenials have a very different way of looking at interpersonal interactions – that is to say they avoid interacting with people they do not know until deciding if they actually desire to interact or not.
There’s always a danger in making a broad generalization such as this. There are of course exceptions but I stand convinced that overall Millenials would much rather find any other way to solve a problem than to actually call someone they do not know. It could be as simple as having a question or problem with an insurance bill. To most Millenials to pick up the phone and call a switchboard or designated information number and get through to the proper person is an ungodly task and even more a horrible waste of time. That calling faceless corporations is a maddening way to spend time is irrefutable. But to not do it at all – ignore it, to try to find another way around ends up being a bigger waste of time and makes things even more difficult in the long run. We experienced people know all about that.
The telephone was invented 137 years ago and for a long time it was thought to be an amazing device. I think an old-fashioned party line would make Millenials really uncomfortable – talk to a bunch people you do not know at all over the phone?
So be aware of the pitfalls when calling Millenials. And if you want to do something even more irrelevant – send a Millenial postal mail. No good news ever comes in the mail to Millenials (since Millenials do not subscribe to printed periodicals for the most part so all they would receive would be bills and advertising mail).
Have you seen what I’ve seen?
Mark, this is a very real shift in how we communicate. I have seen calls ignored time and time again — even if the person knows the caller. I’ve been told, “It’s easier to just text.” Which, of course, you can’t do with a home phone. But who has one of those anymore??
I am interested to see how these trends of no voice interaction and no home phones impacts polling data. There is an intersting article here: http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/who-responds-to-telephone-polls-anymore-20120719
How are pollsters going to collect data future-foward? Will we shift to online surveys? Text surveys? Thoughts?
Thanks for your comment Amy and I agree that the impact on polling will continue to be a problem given not only Millenials reluctance to answer the phone. But when it comes to phone polling it goes beyond Millenials. Since a large number of people like me have caller ID at home – yes we still have a home phone although I rarely get a call from anyone, we avoid answering calls from people or organizations. Scarborough Research has been calling for weeks if not months, sending us mail to get us to answer the phone (they even included a whole U.S. dollar!), but since I know that answering their call and agreeing to participate sucks 30 minutes out of my life – and no I am not interested. SMS Text surveys have to short which is a good thing and when we do emailed surveys we keep them to 10 -12 questions and we do pretty well on response. The shift has already taken place.
BTW – good luck in your new endeavor and congratulations!