in Telephone System

Telephone Allergies, or the Virtue of Voice

If you are interested in business (especially tech) and/or the Los Angeles start-up scene, you absolutely need to follow Mark Suster and sign up for his email newsletter. I am a sucker for anyone loyal to my hometown and looking to build a community here, and I think the efforts of people like Mark are creating a dynamic, exciting ecosystem of companies and talent in Los Angeles.

Stepping off my soapbox, a recent post by Mark really nailed a pressing issue in business, and especially in tech. Younger workers (under 40’s) are loathe to use the telephone to communicate. I obviously have a huge stake in the game – I sell phones to businesses. But I also sell computer network gear, video and text-based communications software, so even if we banned phone numbers tomorrow, I would still run a viable business.

Leaving the disclosures and caveat emptor warnings aside, Mark’s main point is that text-based communications lack the nuance and emotional shading that make phone calls richer and denser in terms of communications. I think Mark’s even higher-level comment that text-based communications, especially anonymous services, dehumanize people, is spot on – go to any comment board on a popular site and you will think there is no hope for humanity after seeing how people talk to each other when hiding behind an avatar.

Mark’s comments are reflected in academic research. Surveys show 89% of respondents have no emotional connection to the brands they interact with, to the detriment of the companies trying to cultivate loyalty and build relationships with customers. There is a field within sociology called Interaction Rituals that studies how people communicate. A  growing body of evidence shows that the more abstract the communications, the less emotional connection and solidarity generated. In fact, across age groups, 51% of adults report having been disappointed to receive significant news via text message. At Extenda, I fight the good fight with employees and, if I am honest, with myself, to make more of an effort to call over other forms of communication, especially if the issue at hand requires some nuance and tact.

Mark goes on to give excellent advice on how to have an effective business call. I highly recommend the read – whether you shun human contact from your place in the shadows, or are an incorrigible chatterbox.

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