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The Upcoming Recruitment Crunch

The Upcoming Recruitment Crunch

/ Operations, People, Hiring, Development
The Upcoming Recruitment Crunch

Gen Z and phone phobia.

My son said, “I can’t hear anything!” My wife had just handed her mobile phone to him, so he could hear a few words from his grandmother. But he was not aware you had to hold the phone up to your ear. Baby Boomers and Generation Xers would automatically put the phone to their ear. But my teenaged son used his phone as a text messaging device, video game console, and YouTube viewer. He has never used his phone, as a PHONE.

My son is not alone! According to a recent study, 90% of Generation Z (born between 1997-2012) prefer texting to phone calls. As contact center agents, they want to be on the chat queue, not the phone queue. Boomers and Gen X grew up talking with their friends on the phone. Meanwhile, Gen Z texts. So, they never learned how to talk on the phone.

As a result, phone conversations make them feel anxious, according to several of the youngest people in my customer service training courses. Unlike texting, talking requires real time responses, with no opportunity to write – and rewrite – their answers. That has led many of them to view phone calls as “aggressive” and can lead to “phone phobia.”

90% of Generation Z (born between 1997-2012) prefer texting to phone calls.

However, Boomers (born between 1945-1964) and Gen X (born between 1965-1985) prefer phone calls to text, especially for complex or emotionally charged issues. That creates a dilemma: contact centers are asking young people - who hate talking on the phone – to help older people who want phone support.

There is also an issue with “phone blindness.” Some Gen Zs miss auditory clues, such as a customer’s vocal tone or hesitation. After all, judging someone’s mood is easier if they use an emoji in their chat message. So, contact centers need to provide extra support for Gen Z employees on the phone queue. However, most training programs assume new hires possess basic phone skills. New hire courses focus on a company’s products, processes, and procedures. However, the newest generation to join the workforce needs support to overcome phone phobia and develop their phone skills.

Boomers (born between 1945-1964) and Gen X (born between 1965-1985) prefer phone calls to text.

A counter argument is chat will eventually replace voice support. Some companies, like Frontier Airlines, have already dropped phone support entirely. While this may align with the preferences of Gen Z and reduce costs, it risks alienating older customers who prefer the familiarity of a phone call. The youngest members of Gen X are currently in their mid-forties. So, who will answer their calls for the next four decades?

Contact centers need to adapt to this new reality and decide how to proceed. One solution is to train Gen Z on phone communication skills. I have trained young people to overcome phone nervousness, project their voices effectively, and enhance their active listening skills. That reduces Gen Z phone phobia and increases performance. So, clients can bridge the gap between generations and ensure a more versatile contact center workforce. Supporting Gen Zs can also increase employee retention.

This generational shift in communication preferences presents contact centers with a significant challenge.

Another option is to change your company’s compensation plans and working hours to attract older Millennials and Gen X employees. This approach acknowledges some level of phone support is needed for the near future.

In conclusion, this generational shift in communication preferences presents contact centers with a significant challenge. Providing phone support clashes with your newest workforce entrants’ text-centric habits. You must adapt to this changing landscape or risk alienating your youngest workers. Re-design your new hire program to address the unique needs of Gen Z. Help them learn basic phone skills and help them overcome “phone phobia.” That will help you build a versatile contact center workforce that can effectively serve the diverse communication preferences of both current and future customers.

Mike Aoki

Mike Aoki

Mike Aoki is the President of Reflective Keynotes Inc., a training company that helps contact centers improve their sales and customer experience results. A contact center expert, Mike was chosen by ICMI.com as one of the "Top 25 Thought Leaders for 2021." He is a frequent contributor to Contact Center Pipeline magazine and a member of their Advisory Board. In addition, he serves on the board of GTACC (the Greater Toronto Area Contact Centre association). He co-authored the Amazon #1 bestselling leadership book, "Called to Action."
Twitter: @mikeaoki

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