What millennials expect from mobile communication

When communicating with young prospective homebuyers, there are a few unwritten rules that REALTORS® are wise to tap into. In mobile communication, text messages are a bit of an art, and millennials prize expediency over perfection, though they still make phone calls (contrary to the dominant narrative). But if there’s one thing to remember, it’s to never leave a voice mail.

Answering machines are now obsolete, and for those born after 1980, so too are voice mailboxes. So much so, that many millennials don’t even bother to record a voice mail greeting, and they rarely listen to voice messages.

“I can’t remember the last time I got a voice message that contained any information I couldn’t have gleaned from the call display on my phone,” explains Kaleigh Rogers, a staff writer at Motherboard. When she misses a call from a friend or colleague, Rogers assumes that the person wants her to call them back, and if she doesn’t recognize the number, she would prefer the person send her a quick text message.

Like others of her generation, Rogers says that listening to voice mails is excruciating. “In an age when anything slower than instantaneous is unacceptable, being forced to dial into a voice mail service,…[enter] a passcode…and then actually listen to the…message is acute attention torture,” she says.

Perhaps the only appropriate instance for a voice message is if you’ve been playing phone tag and have valuable information that isn’t easily conveyed in a text message or email.

It used to be that only teenagers sent text messages, but now even grandparents are hip to texting, and REALTORS® should be, too. With millennial clients, it’s safe to assume that whatever phone number you’ve been given is connected to a smartphone. If you miss their call but don’t have time to speak with them today, send a quick text saying you’ll call tomorrow (a common practice among millennials). Same thing for emails that you won’t have a chance to reply to for a couple of days.

In her book The Essentials of Business Etiquette, career coach Barbara Pachter warns against using abbreviations in text messages and advises to be aware of tone. Abbreviations such as “u” sound unprofessional, she says. Clients expect a professional tone, and since it’s easy for point-form messages to be misconstrued as abrupt, she suggests writing in complete sentences. When communicating with millennials, however, keep in mind that they’re used to instant information – they’re likely to prefer a quick reply over a perfectly crafted text message.

Although it seems unlikely, millennials do use their smartphones for phone calls. Research by Invoca shows that millennials make daily phone calls. In fact, according to Invoca’s State of the Mobile Experience survey, 37% of millennial-age respondents say they make more than five calls per day. One of the concluding points in the survey is this: “We have email, social media, SMS, and countless messenger and video apps. But despite these options, people still love to have a conversation.”1

So, when should you make that phone call? Often, people send text messages while they’re on the go or during a free moment between tasks; therefore, if you’ve received a text message, it’s safe to say that your client expects a text reply. Pachter’s business etiquette teachings, however, advise that professionals avoid sending bad news via text. If your reply contains bad news or the message starts to get lengthy – meaning that it’s too tedious for such a small keyboard – it’s worth asking if your client is available to chat on the phone instead.

Of course, as with any demographic, not all millennials are the same. New mobile apps come out every day, and new communication patterns evolve with them, but trendy new apps aren’t about to replace the classic phone call and now common email and text messages.

1. State of the Mobile Experience, Invoca: go.invoca.com/rs/769-GSC-394/images/Consumer-Survey-Report_201511Final.pdf

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