Cell phone usage has radically changed over the past five years. It was not that long ago that corporate usage of cell phones was considered a luxury and their usage was closely scrutinized for cost reasons since it was so expensive. It is an understatement to say that cell phone usage today is ubiquitous.
It is increasingly common for customers and sales reps to share cell phone numbers; in fact, many people have land line phone messages that offer their cell phone number. Often the message is something like “please leave me a message, but if the matter is urgent please call me on my cell phone at 714 777 XXXX”. It is then up to you escalate the call to their cell phone. Additionally, many people list their cell phone numbers on their websites, business cards, and letterhead; clearly some people prefer to use their cell phones over their land lines.
Yet, others feel differently. For some people, the cell phone is a link to their private lives and not appropriate for business use. Some people use cell phones for outgoing calls only and choose to share their cell phone numbers with only a few close friends and associates. Some companies list cell phone numbers on the company phone directory, while others consider cell phone numbers as confidential or for emergency use only.
A study of consumer cell users was done by www.mobilelife2006.co.uk that identified six cohorts or types of cell phone users. In a nutshell, here is what they found:
1. Generation Mobile: style conscious cell phone users typically singles, students, or first time employees (age 18-24). The brand of the phone and the features make it cool.
2. Phonatics: Single, employed professionals who consider their cell phones to be their most prized electronic possession. Text message them anytime (age 18-34).
3. Practicals: Cost conscious cell phone users who don’t care about style or function (age 18-34).
4. Smart Connectors: Affluent cell phone users who use their phones to organize their lives (age 25-44). Can you say Blackberry?
5. Fingers and Thumbs: Cell phone laggards who use the cell phone when they have to (age 25-80).
6. Silver Cynics: Hold outs or maybe on their first phone (age 55 plus).
So, returning to the subject of calling customers on cell phones, when is it appropriate to call the customer’s cell phone and when is not? Here a few thoughts:
- As the cell phone usage study indicates, not everyone thinks like you do about cell phones. Ask them ahead of time for permission to call their cell phone or when to call. Odds are if they have an issue with it, they will tell you.
- Avoid calling their cell phone after business hours; instead call between 9 and 5 (be respectful of time zones).
- Weekend cell phone calling may be inappropriate, although some people may say, “call me anytime”.
- If they did not personally give you their cell phone number, it may not be appropriate to call them on their cell.
- It is always appropriate to call their cell phone in case of an emergency (use good judgment on that one).
- If you call them on their cell and they seem busy or irritated, ask them for an appointment later.
- It is the end of the quarter and you cannot get a hold of them at the office; call them one their cell phone, but beware of looking like a stalker.
- Repeated cell phone calls leave digital trails. They may not want to speak with you and have been screening their calls to avoid you.
- If they won’t answer their cell phone, try leaving a text message to explain why you need to speak with them.
- Consider a multi-pronged approach by calling land lines and cell phones, while also sending emails. Faxes might work too. If time allows, try the US Mail or FedEx. Try something different.
One more thought. I think that there is a new cohort of cell phone users which the study did not identify. I would call it “native users”; they have grown up with cell phones and know nothing else. My 13-year old daughter sleeps with her cell phone and text messages all night long (yes, we now make her put it away at bedtime).
John Bradley Jackson
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