How Consumers and Businesses Are Evolving in Interaction and Engagement
What would Alexander Graham Bell say if he were to see how his invention
has morphed from the simple, first ever telephone in 1876? And what would
he think after learning that every man, woman and child now has a phone in
the palm of their hands 24-7.
Life looks a lot different since the first telephone line was constructed,
the first switchboard was created and the first telephone exchange was in
operation. Three years after these events, which all happened between 1877
and 1878, almost 49,000 telephones were in use.
But the telephone has never undergone a more profound transformation than
in the 21st century. And we haven’t even hit the two-decade mark! More than
ever, we are glued to our mobile devices, yet traditional phone usage is in
In January 2016, Pew Research Center announced they would increase the
percentage of survey respondents interviewed on cell phones from
65 to 75 percent
to sufficiently represent the nearly
50 percent of U.S. adults
who have ditched their landlines. With our primary mode of communication
quite literally in hand at
, we’ve never been more reachable.
Why, then, are we so hard to reach?
POOR PHONE QUALITY AND DESIGN
Quite in the same way a poorly designed mobile site may lead a prospect to
postpone—or abandon—a purchase until reaching a desktop computer, the call
quality on today’s mobile devices may have those who relinquished their
landlines making a run for the nearest Radio Shack. With a signal that is
transmitted by radio waves to the nearest cell tower—wherever that may
be—and design emphasis on handheld compatibility for text, email, web, and
apps, talking on a mobile phone is neither clear nor comfortable.
The problem has persisted for years. And though recent legislation sought
to make cell phone carrier companies responsible for this problem, a recent
verdict just gave them permission to shrug their proverbial shoulders at
After raging for eight long months, the call-drops issue was finally
resolved by a Supreme Court verdict last month. Much to the disdain of many
cell phone users, the apex court termed the telecom regulator’s directive
to penalize telcos for call drops, as “unconstitutional and arbitrary.”
THINKING OF LEAVING A MESSAGE AFTER THE BEEP? DON’T.
In an effort to simplify work and boost productivity,
Coca Cola recently opted to eliminate voicemail
from the phones of its employees—and only 6 percent kept it when given the
choice. With companies like
JPMorgan following suit
, voicemail is quickly joining the ranks of the rotary, pay phone, and
beeper before it, lending to the notion that the telephone itself may not
be far behind.
It may come as no surprise that the voicemail effect is becoming
increasingly prevalent in an age where millennials—for whom instant
messaging, texting and social media were staples of their childhood and
young adulthood—are estimated to comprise nearly
25 percent of the U.S. population
. But certain social anxieties may be a contributing factor. According to
, millennials tend to avoid making calls for fear of coming off as
presumptuous and distracting to the receiver. Written communication, with
the inherent ability to craft a carefully planned, comprehensive message,
is becoming ever more the preferred method of contact.
EVOLUTION OF A SOLUTION
So, what does this all mean for companies and how they interact with their
The reality is that the landline continues to be in sharp decline. At the
same time, the simultaneous rise of the mobile phone continues to increase.
This is no surprise.
According to a recent Pew Research study, 68% of U.S. adults have a
smartphone, up from 35% in 2011, and tablet computer ownership has edged up
to 45% among adults. Smartphone ownership is nearing the saturation point
with some groups: 86% of those ages 18-29 have a smartphone, as do 83% of
those ages 30-49 and 87% of those living in households earning $75,000 and
As human nature shifts and digital channels continue to emerge into
preferred methods of communication, businesses must follow suit. Customers
have made a mobile mind shift and expect companies to serve them on their
mobile devices in their time of need. It’s no longer just about providing a
1-800 number for “service” calls, a reactive approach to resolving customer
issues and concerns. It’s now about the proactive management of the full
An increasing number of businesses are using technologies – other than voice – to
connect with customers on online and mobile platforms. With the increase in
touch points where brands and customers connect, companies must focus on
the full customer engagement that exceeds far beyond just one interaction.
This means anticipating and addressing a customer’s needs as they use their
mobile phone to browse an online business without being intrusive is
crucial to engaging today’s mobile savvy consumer. For example,
interrupting the customer with random, pop-up windows asking if he or she
needs any help is almost as bad as making an unsolicited telemarketing call
to the mobile customer’s cell phone.
Reaching today’s mobile customer is less about directly reaching them via a
direct phone call and more about paying attention to the customer journey,
where he or she is within that journey and what channel the customer
prefers to use – be it live chat, email or social media messaging.