Given the predictions the past ten years, everyone should now give up talking on the phone, let bots and AI take care of everything with and only look for new ways to automate all sales and marketing processes.
But it’s 2020, and we are still talking on the phone. However, the industry experts never cease to report that in case of communication with customers, businesses should give up on this channel.
😵 Phone conversations are one foot in the grave...
I come across articles with headlines like "Why do people stop talking on the phone" all the time. In such articles, authors explain, mostly based only on their behavior and how it changes, why a phone call is a totally unnecessary thing that will disappear very soon.
I've read dozens of such texts, so it could have affected my subjective feeling that phone calls are really dying. I must admit that this is not the most pleasant feeling, especially since I operate in the business strictly connected to phone calls.
😎 The way we use services change
Another thing that each of us has probably noticed already is the way we use various services daily. Before, we used a phone to be able to use other day-to-day services. Today, we use mobile apps to do so. This trend has led to the development of products such as Uber, Amazon Marketplace, DocPlanner (doctor appointment booking app), and more.
Previously, we had to make a call to order a taxi or to sign up for a hairdresser's. Today we open a dedicated application and satisfy our need with a few clicks, without having to talk to a consultant.
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🤢 Phone calls have a bad, really bad reputation.
When we ask anyone what they associate telephone service with, we will very rarely hear anything positive. Much often, such a person will imagine a huge open space, with 500 call center agents who hate their job. They work for minimum wages, and they feel abused by their employer.
I also often recall phone calls from people who want to offer me things I don't need and don't want — typical phone spam. I'm also sure that everyone has had the experience of waiting 30 minutes on hold to get connected to a bank support agent or telecom operator just to do some trivially simple thing.
And all these examples partly coincide with the truth. But, in fact, they happen very rarely. Nevertheless, they strongly influence our opinion when we think about whether it’s worth investing in telephone service for our clients or not. And the facts remain unchanged - the reputation of telephone service is what it is.
Usually, such arguments are enough to influence decision-makers' approach towards investing in telephone service negatively. And if it already exists, they treat it as a burden on their business that requires maximum optimization.
Believe me, when your business is built for customers serving their prospects over the phone, it is not the most pleasant thing to realize this.
😳 But why statistics say otherwise?
The number of calls made for business purposes is growing 21% y/y, according to the HubSpot survey. Additionally, 56% of customers prefer to contact brands by phone in order to obtain additional information about the services/products they buy online. So you can see the difference between our feelings and actual data, which shows the increase in the number of calls. Why is this happening?
The way we use different services is prone to constant change
In addition to the change I have already described above - when a lot of standard services such as ordering a taxi or booking a doctor's appointment are done with a few clicks instead of a phone call, some of the services and purchasing processes move from the real world to phone conversations.
The banking industry is a good example. Some of the services such as payment or checking the account balance are already available in apps and don’t require a visit to the brick and mortar bank branch. On the other hand, e.g., detailed information about a mortgage option is available through a phone call. You don’t need to go to a bank branch to get all the necessary information.
The biggest change from offline to phone calls can be seen in very big or important transactions and in the B2B world, where 10 years ago, the meeting was an indispensable part of the purchasing process. Now, we can see how companies have serious conversations via tele- or video conferences.
The most natural way of communication
Whether it's on Skype, live or on the phone, it’s still a conversation, and it's the most natural way for us to communicate. We've been using it for thousands of years, and so far, there is no chance that there will be any other way of communication to replace the conversation.
We may like emails or chats, but talking is the easiest way to exchange information. Even if one side is replaced by a robot, e.g., like when we call the airport and the voice bot answers on the other side, or like in the case of Google voice commands when we ask the voice assistant to call and book a table in a restaurant.
The development of voice interfaces
The fact that conversation is the most natural way of communicating for us confirms the dynamic development of voice interfaces - almost every messenger already offers the feature of sending voice messages, which are actively used on a daily basis by people born after 1990.
Voice assistants on the phone, the development of home and car assistants, even the dynamics of the growth of voice search in Google, all say that the voice assistants market will grow.
So, is it worth it to offer service and support over the phone, or not?
To sum up, the only way to answer the question. Is it worth having phone service or not, is: it depends :)
It depends on the type of business and the size of the transaction. Whether there is a possibility of building additional value in this channel. For example, larger companies use phone calls not only as a way to sell or support customers but also as a way to collect additional information from the market - what customers most often ask about what they are interested in, what they have a problem with, etc.
I can say that it’s necessary to approach this communication channel with respect, logic, and without subjective feelings.