For over a century, the national telephone system served as the nerve center to the industrial system that still underlies our economy. It was the backbone of B2B and B2C sales and service, as well as an important staple in social and family life. Early in the 20th century, the telephone became a fixture in the home, and every business or individual had a listing in the phone book, even if they choose not to publish their number.
By answering and talking on the family telephone, children learned to speak appropriately to strangers, to engage in small talk, and to communicate using their voices. The phone was THE social channel, where people discussed both public and personal news and events, and checked in on each other in times of crisis.
While writing transposed a distance between the speaker and audience, the telephone brought them together. Information could flow quickly, allowing problem solving, fast action and ideation to happen at the rate of speech. Consumers picked up the phone expecting quick resolution of their issues, and sales closed deals quickly, using the phone to persuade and convince. Telemarketing became a massive industry, and in many ways heralded the end of the phone call as a tool of easy access.
The Internet changed everything
As technology allowed more and more calls, businesses and consumers grew weary of the intrusion into their world, and began to use voicemail and the ‘decline’ call feature to filter calls and control who they spoke to. When the world wide web exploded, they also began to use the internet to locate and research the options available to them, and to listen to input from their peers and from influencers. People could learn not just what their neighbors were doing, but what like-minded people around the world were doing. Today, voice, chat, video and text share the same data network, and have give people many options to use for communication and collaboration.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that the iPhone is only ten years old. There’s good reason the Pew Research Center dubbed the smartphone, “The Device with the Fastest Adoption Rate in History.” The smartphone is at the convergence point of many innovative and disruptive technologies, consolidating advances in computation, storage, networking, and communications.
What began as a consumer product has revolutionized business communication, and transformed the way people relate, not just to each other, but also to brands. Communications are no longer centered around a shared family phone, but are personalized to each unique user.
With this new approach comes new opportunities and new challenges.
Friends, family, and brands
Brands have become more up close and personal, living on social media, and sharing the same intimate spaces as friends and families. And yet, while brands can text, email, message and call consumers on their personal smartphones, that’s no guarantee of being heard. Even worse, sometimes the message is heard, but rejected, creating a lasting negative impression. The intimate proximity that brands share to the personal lives of their users is only increasing as brands are increasingly finding their way into conversational interfaces and branded messaging apps.
Getting attention over email, social media or other new media is a bit of a hit or miss, but when a user picks up the phone and calls a company, they really do want to connect.
A phone call signals interest and engagment.
In many ways, the many options in communication channels that consumers have at their fingertips give provide more options for avoiding or retreating from contact they don’t want. Busy people opt for text or email, which allows them to communicate at the time and speed of their choosing, and to ignore what doesn’t seem relevant or timely. On the other hand, important messages or useful information can actually get lost in the noise. How do you bring value if you can’t be heard?
In the context of a multi-platform, omnichannel digital environment, what role does voice communication play?
The value of a phone call for business
For grabbing attention, communicating directly and gaining clarity, a phone call is still a relevant and superior tool for businesses to communicate.
In fact, its impossible to build meaningful relationships without using voice communication and conversation.
However, the internet has changed expectations and protocols for how, when and why we pick up the phone to speak to someone. The value of a phone call has actually increased. The old smile and dial days of a massive telemarketing effort are giving way and the phone is a more effective tool when used precisely, strategically and very intentionally.
Here's a few reasons why phone calls matter more in a mobile age:
- Phone calls are better for resolving problems -- When a great deal has to be communicated in a short time, a phone call is the most effective way to make it happen. Back and forth responses tend to be less persuasive the longer they go on.
- Talking things out is far easier when you're on the road -- Sitting down to type something out takes time and attention. You can't do it when you are on the move or under a time crunch. Efficient workers just call and take care of issue instead of putting it off.
- Voice quite literally helps people put their heads together -- Researchers recently confirmed that the rhythms of brainwaves between two people start to sync up with each other as soon as they enter into a conversation.
- Major tech companies are betting big on voice -- The telephone isn't going away, even as it changes form, because speaking is so much a part of our lives and so individual to each person that tech firms are treating it like a password. Keyboards could easily disappear, but long distance communication is only ramping up.
Tips for getting more calls made and answered
Be prepared. 74% of sellers say they are prepared for their calls. Only 45% of buyers agree. The same is true of being helpful. 77% of salespeople say they are trying to be helpful, but less than 44% of buyers are getting the help they want.
Use context. People will be more likely to answer the call if they know the subject and the urgency of the call. Millennials may not hate phone calls, but they hate calls that interrupt them or waste their valuable time.
Find the time. Some research suggests that the best time for calls to get through tends to be later in the afternoon and later in the week. Of course, ideal times vary greatly based on individual schedules. Experiment with calls at different times and use a presence-enabled call system that suggest when it’s a good time to call.
Don't drop the ball. Inside Sales reported that on average 73% of sales leads are never followed up. It's true in every field that you will lose 100% of the connections that you forget about. Set reminders for yourself to stay in touch with key prospects and team members.
Address the problem. Many bottlenecks at work would disappear if the business had an address book that advised workers how to contact colleagues. Flexible schedules and remote work improve individual productivity, they make it harder for teams to stay in contact. The Spoke app provides employees with an employee directory that automatically updates with each employee’s current mobile number and time frames when they are available to take calls.
Protect their privacy. Employees don’t want to make work calls using their personal phones for two good reasons: it compromises their security and privacy. Spoke masks the employee’s private number outbound work-related calls. The person on the other end sees the Caller ID number that you set, whether that’s the general business number or a number assigned to the team. At the same time, their personal calls and app usage is kept private.
Best of both worlds. Mobile phones are better for making and taking calls on the road. Desk phones are usually easier for simple transfers and conference calls. Spoke turns any collection of private mobile phones into a business network. Transfer calls with a touch to an individual or a team. When you need a bring in multiple team members on a live meeting, you can use Bluetooth to send the call to desktop conference line.
Does your business phone line actually help you talk?
Traditional land lines, hosted PBX and VoIP business phone systems are there to make calls possible, but they don't always help you talk. ––––They can be so difficult to use and maintain that people end up just using their own cell phones, where it can be difficult to manage call traffic and follow up.
Spoke is a next-generation virtual phone system, built to run on top of new technologies like VoLTE, HDVoice and 5G networks.
The Spoke app transforms the phones that your employees already love into a global mobile network, with local numbers in 56 countries.
In researching how employees at small companies actually use their phones, we've found out that less is more. The intuitive Spoke interface contains all the business phone line essentials that small businesses want and none of the bells and whistles that distract employees from doing their work.
Spoke is as easy to install and easy to use, yet powerful enough to replace your office phone system, eliminating up to 88% of your telecom costs.