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Why I Rarely Answer My Phone

mute button by woodleywonderworks on FlickrIncreasingly, as a digital native, citizen of the internet, geek girl – call me what you wish – I find myself more and more discerning about how, when, and with whom I use the phone.

It is simply another trending practice that all marketers would be wise to note: Interruption of any kind is increasingly irritating and unnecessary in today’s world of technology and community. Consider this yet another free tip from your early adopter, Rox.

Clive Thompson in Wired.com captures the sentiment perfectly:

Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you’re busy, and you have no idea why I’m calling…. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one. (We apparently find voicemail even more excruciating: Studies show that more than a fifth of all voice messages are never listened to.)

The bold emphasis is mine. FYI our insider club of precious clients have phone access to me 24/7; you folks are listed in my Caller ID. Yet even with you/them I don’t always answer immediately. Because I have more than one client, I often choose not to drop my work on Client A to answer a call from Client B. I will listen to the voice mail as soon as I “come up for air” and will respond accordingly.

So let me explain “come up for air.”

The nature of my work is very brain intensive. When I sit down to craft a proposal or to build a blog or troubleshoot a marketing problem, I go deep into many layers of experience, technology, human behavior, internet psychology, the client’s budget level, etc. It is not a casual exercise. I have on average, 8-10 different software applications that I run concurrently.

In these busy times, I am ever more committed to using my time efficiently, as the various social web communities would otherwise tug at me literally 24/7. I not only would be severely lacking in sleep and recreation, I would not be getting anything done! Meaning – completed, finished, to-do item checked done.

To be interrupted throughout the day by ringing phones with a whole different set of (sometimes random) questions causes me to have to be yanked out of “the zone” which I consider a dis-service to my clients (my efficiency for them just crashed) and it is certainly taxing on my energy. And trust me – you all want me happy not cranky, right?

Why I Generally Prefer DIgital Communication

  • It can be sent and consumed at mutually convenient, self-directed time frames.
  • It can be sent and consumed using mutually convenient, self-directed devices/platforms.
  • It provides a written record; that saves so many brain cells from trying to remember things!
  • That written record lowers error rates and confusion over deliverables. Yes, it takes my billable time to write up the notes – but you are so well-served by my laying things out so clearly for you to consider over time.
  • It can slow down the process, allowing answers to appear without anyone being interrupted. Feelings of urgency are not always accurate.

So even though you’ll hear me say, “I get waaay too much email!” don’t confuse that with “I would SO much rather get a descriptive email with a handy subject than a phone call almost any day!”

Understanding the phone preference

Often, people who phone just want an answer to their question now (don’t we all!), or they are not that comfortable with email (join KnowHow Cafe where the smart people come to get smarter), or they don’t want to take the time to write out their question (you’ll be the main beneficiary of doing this!), or they are shielding the conversation specifically from a written record (hehe, no comment).

What’s more polite, phone or digital?

So while those of you who like to use the phone may consider those of us who don’t answer rude or selfish, here’s an upbeat take on things from Clive:

The telephone, in other words, doesn’t provide any information about status, so we are constantly interrupting one another. The other tools at our disposal are more polite. Instant messaging lets us detect whether our friends are busy without our bugging them, and texting lets us ping one another asynchronously. (Plus, we can spend more time thinking about what we want to say.) For all the hue and cry about becoming an “always on” society, we’re actually moving away from the demand that everyone be available immediately.

Let’s treat the phone as a really valuable business tool and make appointments for phone calls! We can leverage our powerful connections together IRL to their maximum by using the best tool for the job. Want to talk to me? Just send a quick email with your general topic and list some times *you* are available. I’ll get back to you. Keep ringing me up and not leaving any details in your voicemail while I am immersed in delivering services to someone else? It could take days to get a response.

Photo Credit: Mute by woodlywonderworks on Flickr.