Millennials Text, Not Phone

We at Mobus Creative Negotiating have long taught techniques for negotiating by phone as well as face to face. Well, that’s becoming passé. Phoning is so 20th century: no millennials speak on a phone.

To quote an August 9, 2018, Washington Post article:, “Some 20 million businesses now use Facebook Messenger each month to talk to their customers.” Facebook’s WhatsApp is used by another 3 million businesses. “We see more and more chatting, texting, social media interactions – and fewer and fewer voice interactions each year,” said Jamie Barton, executive vice president of sales and service at AT&T. Part of that is generational: those under 20 rarely speak on the phone. But not just. LivePerson, whose support software is used by 18,000 companies, says that when given the option, 70% of people chose a “message us” button over a “call us” one.

Why? For one thing, companies can’t easily make a hard sell over text. And text means no waiting on the phone listening to Muzak.

So what should negotiators know about texting compared to voice interactions? To quote the Post article, “It turns out we’re nicer on text. No wonder texting businesses leaves many people happier.” As the Post put it, “Several of the companies I spoke with reported customers tended to chill out when mediated through text, making support a more pleasant job.”

Be prepared for delays before getting an answer. After all, one of the great advantages of messaging in particular is that the other side can answer when it’s convenient, even if that is hours later. Don’t expect an instant answer when messaging (texting usually involves a quicker give-and-take), but on the other hand, don’t feel compelled to answer quickly.

A danger about texting is that people tend to broadcast personal details. Not a good idea: these are not encrypted conversations. For instance, on Facebook Messenger, Facebook can see what you are typing. They insist they don’t share that content with other companies – but they do reserve the right to use it themselves.

Where this is all headed is: humans and bots working together. Why not? The bots can handle the routine stuff, and humans are only needed for something unusual or complicated. That can be cheaper and faster – no more long waits for some harassed customer service representative. Plus let’s face it: voice is often an unproductive way to communicate – we are not necessarily the clearest at expressing ourselves.