People’s need to communicate has driven a fast evolution of communication tools over the last 150 years. From messengers, to mail, and telegraphs, until the telephone made bi-directional human long-distance possible.
The convenience brought by the telephone quickly made it a great tool for customer engagement, but for a long time, it required a manual process.
In the 1960s, Automatic Call Distribution technology enabled the filtering of incoming calls and its routing to agents, paving the way for the contact center. Toll-free dialing removed another barrier for customers to reach a business (costly long-distance charges) and allowed a business to have the same number for all customers to use, regardless of city or state.
Automated Attendants and Interactive Voice Response features soon appeared to help obtain customer information and route incoming calls to the right agent.
Then, with the introduction of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1991, and the first SMS text message sent in 1992, new channels opened for consumers to interact with businesses (such as email and web page forms), decreasing the reliance on voice. As SMS spread globally, consumers started to favor messaging as a way to interact with each other and expected the same from enterprises.
And it didn’t stop there, today new channels, such as social media, live online chat, and even video chat are widely used by consumers.
Messaging vs. Voice
Businesses find it challenging to keep up with these trends in order to remain competitive, but that doesn’t mean they should abandon voice, for it is still the primary method of customer engagement. It just depends on the situation. For example, someone involved in a minor fender bender in a busy road will not likely send an email to their towing company. The urgency of the situation requires something more immediate, and a call is more effective.
It’s hard to know, however, if voice is still the preferred method or if the current statistics are influenced by the large number of businesses that only provide a voice channel to their customers. Perhaps voice is being used when all other communication methods have failed.
Some reasons why consumers may prefer a different channel other than voice:
- Voice requires dedicated attention. Text-based methods (SMS, email, and webchat) are less disruptive.
- Voice is less private. Where others can hear the customer, exchanging delicate information over text is preferable.
- Spoken words are harder to remember, but a written conversation leaves a trail that customers can review.
Omnichannel Is the Way Forward
Businesses need to provide additional contact avenues to adapt to consumer preferences[i] if they want to remain competitive.
Younger customers rely more on messaging. Americans over 55 years of age send about 16 text messages per day, on average, those between 18 and 24 years old send 128, eight times.[ii] For Americans under 50, text messaging has surpassed voice as the primary communication method.[iii]
Consumers have incredible flexibility to communicate thanks to technology and are expecting to contact a business using their channel of choice, not the one chosen by the business.
Omni channel customer engagement solutions such as Mavenir’s Mobile Business Contact can provide a fast and easy to implement solution to this challenge.