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Millennial Kids' Phone Fears Hamper Business Growth

Article date: Wed, 22 Feb 2012 12:54 GMT

Jonathan Bowers

Young people in business are less likely to pick up the phone than their older counterparts, which could be putting their employers at a financial disadvantage.

The millennial generation has become accustomed to digital communication and developed a fear of the phone that could cause businesses to alienate their clients - particularly older customers who associate quality customer service with a personal approach.

"For so many businesses, their main contacts within client-businesses - the key decision makers - are from the generation where a phone call or a face-to-face meeting is valued more highly than an email," explained Jonathan Bowers, communications director at hosting and cloud specialist UKFast.

"Being able to pick up the phone and chat with someone, or have a face-to-face meeting with people is a rarity in the younger-generations," Bowers continues.

Despite sales and usage of mobile phones skyrocketing, this is not translating into an office environment. Research has shown that only 45% of time spent by mobile users is actually spent on making calls. Others say that it is even lower than this at just 20%.

"With this in mind it is no wonder that a great telephone manner is becoming a dying art," Bowers says.

Discussing mobile commerce during a panel debate in Manchester, experts said smartphones - that bring the web, shops, and the cinema to the palm of your hand - are driving younger people away from the traditional use of the telephone.

Ronnie Brown, managing partner at marketing agency Quirk London, explained: "I think it's a misnomer to call them phones now - considering 23% of global web traffic last year came from mobile devices.

"With email and instant messaging services, getting a 25 year-old to pick up the phone is a real challenge. The younger generation think it rude to call people, as the call is immediate and causes an interruption. They would rather send an email, text or IM and give the recipient the opportunity to deal with the question in their own time."

Rob Smith, digital director, Blueleaf described how although young people's attitudes towards two-way communication have changed, there is still strong demand from clients for a personal approach.

"My clients and the people that we deal with on a day-to-day basis really appreciate the telephone contact that we have with them - we do use email, but this is generally for admin and such.

"I may be a young dinosaur but for me there is no substitute for a face-to-face conversation."

The generation gap between preferred methods of communication for younger and older people is causing a continued struggle within the workplace as phone-friendly employees become harder to find.

Bowers explained: "We look for a certain type of person when recruiting for UKFast and we're finding it more and more difficult to find people who can translate the sparkle that they have in person over the phone.

Even in a fast paced digital world, businesses need to maintain that personal touch. UKFast sets targets for its account management team based on time spent on phone calls with clients and the number of face to face meetings that take place to make sure it lives up to its promise to deliver a dedicated and personal service.

"More and more we have to retrain people to be confident enough to use the phone over other forms of communication."


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