It’s ironic that the smartphone has “phone” in its name because that’s the least of its capabilities. A smartphone is a camera, watch, step-counter, heart-rate monitor, entertainment center, and very tiny laptop, to name a few of its myriad capabilities.
Today, the devices that unhooked telephones from the wall have led to the death of the phone. Now, businesses need new ways to forge direct connections with consumers.
The birth and death of the telephone
When telephones first came into homes, it must have seemed like a miracle to be able to hear the voice of someone across town or the country. However, telephones required new infrastructure. Within 25 years of their invention, just 10% of U.S. homes had a phone. The landline telephone was invented in the late 1800s, but it took until 1960 to reach 80% penetration in the U.S.
In the 1990s, telephones broke free from the wired landline, but the first models were large and awkward to use. In 2002, Blackberry released the first widely adopted smartphone. Now, less than 20 years later, 85% of people in the U.S. own a smartphone.
However, by untethering communications, the smartphone has opened up many new communication channels. And, it turns out, many of us prefer those channels to talking on the phone.
Young people don’t want to take your call
Millennials and Gen Z favor chat and text — and they hate the telephone. One survey found that 81% of millennials feel anxious about making voice calls and that three-quarters of them feel that calls are too time-consuming. Respondents said they don’t answer their phones to avoid talking with people they perceive as whiny or needy.
Another survey found that if respondents were forced to give up either talking or texting, 75% would keep texting and give up the phone function on their smartphones. And almost 20% of millennials reported never checking voicemails, so if you call them, they won’t get the message.
Smartphones are simply a wireless version of older technology; they are devices that give us the freedom to change the way we talk to one another. Businesses need to pay attention or risk losing out on connecting consumers, especially the younger ones.
A proliferation of communication channels
For Millennials and Gen Z, email is old school, and phone calls are unpleasant. So how do they prefer to communicate?
- Facebook is the most popular social media, even with the younger generations.
- Instagram, because images are a necessary and ubiquitous form of communication for digital natives.
- Snapchat, for talking with friends.
- Twitter is often the quickest way to connect with a brand or even get customer service.
- WhatsApp is the primary channel in many countries outside the U.S.
- Chatbots are a preferred mode for customer service inquiries and help requests.
The theme that runs through the communications preferences of an emerging majority of consumers is that they want fast responses via written channels, often but not exclusively over social media.
There’s one more option that cuts across the generational divide: texting. Like social messaging channels, texting allows users to multitask while still receiving and responding to messages in real-time. And, unlike some of the newer social apps, SMS technology is accessible for users of all ages and technical savvy to access.
For example, a survey of consumer preferences found that messaging was the preferred way to access customer service for consumers aged 44 and under, with about 31% ranking it number one. But, for the 45 and up demographic, while email and phone calls remain popular, 24% still said that texting was their top choice for connecting with businesses.
Best practices for cutting through the noise to reach customers
There are two ways to look at the proliferation of communications channels. On the downside, it can be harder to make an impression when consumers have an overload of personal and professional messaging in their lives.
On the upside, though, we are now a culture of constant attention. Young people, in particular, are adept at toggling among multiple information inputs. If you can get the right message to the right person at the right time, you have more opportunities to connect with consumers than ever before.
Here are some tips to optimize your contacts with your customers.
- Personalize your messages. Consumers, particularly millennials, expect personalized marketing, and 72% say they will respond only to personalized messages.
- Respond quickly. You don’t have to have someone on call 24/7 to deliver the responsiveness that consumers expect. AI and chatbots can provide fast and relevant answers to your customers’ questions.
- Tailor your communications to your customer base. For instance, if your customers skew younger, visuals are crucial for your message to get their attention.
- Don’t assume older customers can’t handle texting. People of all ages rely on SMS for communicating. And a consumer who isn’t used to getting text messages from businesses could be delighted if you are their first. Don’t be afraid to break new ground with older consumers.
- Make sure your texts send the right message. Messaging is a great way to connect with consumers. However, the wording of the message is critical to your success. Adopt a winning text script [link], track and analyze your results, and continue to refine your message.
A phone call is the last thing many consumers want to get on their smartphones. It’s essential to reach out to your customers in ways that work with their busy lives. The phone call is dead, and messaging has taken its place.
We built Verse.io to solve this massive lead conversion problem and help businesses engage and qualify leads 24/7, at any scale, leveraging powerful AI and automation with SMS texting.
If you want to learn more, schedule a time to speak to one of our lead conversion experts.