Whatever Happened To The Quick Phone Call?
I was talking to a client and they mentioned that they didn’t have a work phone number. And I’ve come across this before in tech — employees not having work phone numbers.
And it puzzles me. Maybe I’m just old? I’m 45. I’m that generation that grew up without mobile phones and the internet and then jumped all in once they came along.
What puzzles me is why would you not use a tool that makes life so much easier? Why don’t you have a number that I can reach you on and talk in real-time, hear your tone, sense the atmosphere, be able to adapt?
A quick phone call is the best tool ever.
I used to work in supply chain. There was always something crazy happening. Well meaning sales people creating awesome deals for deliveries direct from the manufacturer to the customer’s warehouse… and no one thought to tell us supply chain people about it until that container of batteries arrived at the customer’s warehouse and they had no way to unload it. (my supply chain peeps, you know that wasn’t the only issue).
I regularly had a whole bunch of frustrated people around me: customers, warehouse team, management. All wanting to get things resolved asap.
We had to find the solution to the physical stock problem, the financial problem, and there was never a technical systems solution ready. Ever.
Don’t get me wrong, we did everything above board, legal.
It’s just that we had to metaphorically change the tyres while driving the car. But legally.
Tish was my warehouse superhero. We would be on the phone so often. I can still hear his exclaimed “you want me to do what?” and imagine his expression (we never met) as I told him my crazy requests.
There is no way that he would have collaborated with me if we did this over email or via the predecessor of Slack.
On the phone we’d laugh at the situation, he could call me crazy and tell me he wasn’t going to answer my calls anymore, and I’d hear the grudging warmth in his tone. We’d commiserate about the enormity of the task, and we’d brainstorm how to solve it quickly while abiding by regulations etc. We’d problem solve along the way, give updates, and built a good working relationship.
All under incredibly challenging circumstances. And believe me, supply chain challenges are never more real than in the warehouse where the laws of physics, space and time dominate.
I can’t imagine doing all of that on zoom. Or on slack. Or via email.
Don’t get me wrong, these are all great tools, and I love using them.
Pick up the phone, talk for a few minutes, everything sorted.
To this day, if I want something to be sorted, I pick up the phone. And it always gets a good result, and fast.
So I’m puzzled. In a world where communication is so important. When our challenges are great. When we need the collaboration and creativity of our colleagues. When we all miss contact, real human contact with each other. When we all have phones in our hands all the time.
Why aren’t we using the magic of the quick phone call?
So I miss just picking up the phone and talking to people. So I’m bringing it back, like Justin Timberlake did with sexy.