Communication bias: The 'cost' of the status quo
My communications technology gap widens with every day that passes. When I retired, I stopped caring what the latest social media platform was or what version iPhone was current. I’ve drawn a digital line in the sand that I won’t cross. I have learned to ignore the shocked look on the faces of my friends when I pull my flip-phone from my pocket. I no longer feel compelled to answer texts; if someone I know wants to reach me, they can call me and I’ll answer; everyone else must leave a message.
Better still, they can send me an email so I’m not interrupted.
I’ve always been a late-adopter. In the 1970s, I delayed connecting an answering machine to my land line and was distrustful of those new-fangled thermal fax machines with their slick, curly paper.
In the eighties, I didn’t understand why anyone would want a computer in their home.
I thought that mobile phones were unnecessary in the nineties; if I needed to make a call, I’d find a pay phone. (There was one on every corner!)
I’m sure many in my Baby Boomer cohorts can relate to these attitudes. But I no longer operate a retail store. If I did, I’d have no choice but to “man-up” and plunge into the digital morass. These days, one can’t run a business without being well-connected.
Why businesses need to quickly adopt new technology
My friend Angela put this into perspective for me with a recent Facebook post:
“I just texted a local business to get a quote for a job, and when I found the number was a landline, I went to look for a website or a FB page – but there WAS no website and no FB page. I momentarily was like ‘what kind of business makes it impossible to contact them?!???’ And then I realized I had a phone number that I could actually CALL. Quaint, but it just may work!!”
Maybe it’s a good thing I’m retired.
Angela is a well-educated Gen-X communications professional. Let’s analyze her Facebook post and follow her communication attempts, in order of preference:
- Website (email)
- Facebook page
- Phone call.
Is Angela atypical in her phone use? I don’t think so. Rhik Samadder writes in the British daily newspaper The Guardian [https://bit.ly/2OFY2al]:
“How hard is it to pick up the phone? Apparently, quite hard. Research indicates a quarter of smartphone users never use them to place a voice call. It’s not just digital natives; I can’t remember the last time I called a friend for a chat ... Getting a phone call is even worse: it feels like being hijacked, or thrust on stage at the Albert Hall, without a script. With email, messaging, hangouts and social media on the menu, it’s not as if we suffer a lack of options ...”
According to the polls ...
A recent Gallup poll [https://bit.ly/2ED46Lk] compiled data on American’s communication preferences, and found that:
- Texting is the most frequently used form of communication among Americans younger than 50. Texting drops off significantly after age 50 and is used infrequently among those aged 65 and older.
- Use of cellphones and email to communicate is highest among the youngest age group, with little drop-off among those 30 to 64, and is lowest among those aged 65 and older.
- Still, despite seniors’ relatively infrequent use of cellphones and email, both are essentially tied with landline phone use as the most frequently used method of communication even in this oldest age group.
- The use of social media to communicate is in the top four among those aged 18 to 29, but its use drops off significantly among those 30 or older.
- Few Americans of any age report using Twitter frequently, although its use is higher among the younger group. Three percent or less of those aged 30 and older report using Twitter a lot, including virtually no Americans aged 65 and older.
- The use of home landline phones shows a different pattern by age than the other communication methods: it is low across all age groups, albeit slightly higher among those 65 and older. Business landline use is slightly lower among seniors.
The poll data indicate that communication preferences are an inverse function of age; older cohorts prefer older technology. Presently, you’ll get phone calls from Boomers but texts, email, and Facebook messages from nearly everyone else. As time goes on and new technology is introduced older technologies will fade away.
Communication habits in the future
The day may come when no one at all calls you on the phone.
Though it seems that younger generations are more ready to adopt new communication channels, eventually they, too, will resist change and cling to technology they are comfortable with rather than adopt “the latest thing.” That’s because, as a species, we have what psychologists call a “status quo bias.” This emotional bias exhibits as a preference for the current state of affairs (status quo).
The current baseline is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss. Psychology Today instructs:
“When individuals are faced with the choice to change their environment or remain in their current state of affairs, even when the decision is between simulated familiarity and unknown reality, most will choose the familiar. It is likely that this is a form of risk aversion that is characteristic of status quo bias—that individuals averse to the risk of losing their current reality will choose to rema
in (where they are).” [https://bit.ly/2Lp80rR]
Communication technology will continue to evolve, as will other retail technologies such as payment processing and inventory management. Antique dealers must keep up with those changes in order to remain viable. Are we guilty of applying our particular communication bias to our customers, or do we open multiple channels, so they can contact us using a familiar method?
New technologies must be embraced rather than avoided. Otherwise, our businesses will erode, one technology at a time.
The day may come when customers – like Angela – will ask “What kind of business makes it impossible to contact them?”
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