According to a Nielson report on telecom industry trends, we’re spending less time on the phone. In 2015, 31 percent of wireless subscribers in the United States rated their voice calling use as “low.”
However, Pew Research found that 97 percent of smartphone owners use text messaging (no surprise), which was the most frequently used feature on the phone. It’s the 18- to 29-year-olds who are most likely to text, with 100 percent of them doing so over the course of the study.
So how is this decline in voice communication impacting the way businesses connect? Let’s look at that now.
Good News: Customer Service Hasn’t Lost Its Voice
Along with changes in how we use our phones, and communicate in general, has come a shift in how businesses operate, including customer service. A lot more happens through the Web today, but begs the question: is it as satisfying to the customer experience?
Live chat is one example of these newer forms of customer service, though some experts feel it’s not effective nor convenient for the consumer. Other options, such as email and social media, also move us away from telephone time with businesses.
Facebook now offers Messenger for businesses, which could change the way companies communicate and service clients in a big way. The idea is that customers prefer to communicate in this casual and rapid manner, and especially appreciate having everything in one platform when they order products through Facebook.
Further, Facebook is expanding how private messages impact a business’ reputation. For example, pages messaging makes it possible for admins to respond to comments in a private message rather than just in the comment thread. Better yet, the public comment will include a note of the private contact, letting other viewers know the business is resolving the situation appropriately.
This type of thing can help businesses better serve customers directly without a phone. Amazon knows all too well that even when you offer great customer service, social media and digital forums tend to be where consumers go to air their grievances when they’re not happy.
Walmart experienced the downside of this when it offended several customers and failed to respond in a timely manner.
A Push for the Traditional Phone Call, But Does it Work?
Google AdWords does do something to encourage the ol’ fashioned phone call to a business with its clickable call buttons and call-only campaigns. Not only does this display a phone number on your Google ad, but on a mobile device, the click-to-call (CTC) button provides the user with a seamless experience.
All kinds of companies are using CTC buttons, including Comcast and Esurance. Really, any company that expects a high volume of calls could benefit from this feature, as 52 percent of smartphone users still call local businesses to connect.
Google commissioned an independent study on customer attitudes about the feature. According to the study, 70 percent of those searching on mobile used CTC within the retail, auto, restaurant, technology and other sectors.
Still, cell phones are being used less for phone calls, overall, than other digital activities, and it feels like there’s no stopping the shift toward texting and social media.
How Businesses Are Adapting to Texts
We know that customers are looking for more interaction via text these days, and are accustomed to multiple options. Perhaps you’ve experienced an increase in texts from businesses over the years, and see a benefit to it.
Yet, there is a downside to jumping on the texting bandwagon as a business. Just as people got annoyed with telemarketing and “nuisance” calls in earlier times, and spam email more recently, many cell phone users have become annoyed with spam texts on their phone.
If your company is too quick to text, or does so too frequently, you run the risk of alienating your customer, rather than adding value. The FCC has even strengthened protections for consumers in this area.
But some companies and organizations have gone in a different direction to take advantage of texting in a way that adds value.
You’ve most likely heard of opportunities to donate money in the wake of a crisis by simply texting on your phone. After a major earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, relief agencies raised $43 million via texted donations, with each of those texts representing only $10 of relief.
Over the 2015 holiday season, Google began experimenting with texting to deliver deals – like Black Friday and Cyber Monday – directly to users who opted in.
While advertisers have a number of reasons to try texting while phone calls become less common as an outreach method, recognize that what works for one company might not work for all.
In the end, texts and other non-telephone interactions with consumers should be considered an important channel to explore, and paired with other data when developing advertising strategies.
Anything that lets consumers communicate more quickly and through the devices right in their pocket – well, I call that a win.