I sent my first email in 1992.
I was doing research for a college project. At the time I could only email researchers at other colleges.
I graduated and entered the job market. Fax machines came and (mostly) went. Voicemail is on its last legs.
For better or worse, I realize.
The average office worker receives around 90 emails a day and sends 40. Many of those are unnecessary. Companies like Slack are trying to help office workers dig out from under an overloaded in-box.
Email persists because it makes sense. Email doesn’t interrupt. Email creates its own written history. Email can be searched.
Yet, for many businesses, email remains a secondary way to communicate. And they are losing money because of it.
We’re in the market for a big-ticket item. Like, tens of thousands of dollars big.
The purchasing process involves a lot of research. I prefer to use email so I can keep a record of who I’ve contacted, the questions I’ve asked them, and answers they’ve given.
If they bother to respond, that is.
I contacted a dealer because their website said they had what we were shopping for. But they are 2.5 hours away, so I wanted to make sure their website was accurate before killing a day driving there.
I never got an answer.
I sent a second request.
Again, no answer.
Yes, I know.
Just pick up the phone, right?
But they have a website. It has a “Contact Us” link, right up there at the top of the page. I used it, and the website displayed a message. It thanked me for my contact and assured me that I’d get a response soon.
If the dealer can’t follow through on the very first promise they’ve made me as a prospective customer, why should I trust them any further?
I emailed another dealer and got an immediate response. With a request to “setup a time to talk on the phone.”
As a prospective customer, I already felt manipulated. If I wanted to talk on the phone, I would have called to begin with.
Some businesses stay successful by focusing on phone conversations.
I get that.
But know this.
Change is coming.
And, like with all change, you’ll need to adapt or die.
Millennials – and the generations behind them – grew up emailing, texting, tweeting, Snap-chatting, and What’sApping.
And they hate talking on the phone.
They have their reasons.
Texting is easier. Email is faster. The other person doesn’t have to be available. The conversation can happen quietly, while either person is otherwise occupied. There’s a history to scroll back through. Good news travels via email or text. Bad news travels via phone calls. Phone calls interrupt like a rude person.
Agree or disagree all you want.
But if your livelihood depends on communicating with people under 40, you’d better get comfortable typing.