Why Customers Still Want to Speak to You

With the internet, social media, instant messaging and online chat bots, customers have the means of contacting businesses to make a purchase or resolve a problem without ever speaking to a real person.

But despite the popularity and increasing number of digital communication available, many customers still prefer the simple act of picking up the phone and talking to someone.

Which presents a problem for companies that have gone all in on digital at the expense of their telephone answering.

So why, despite the many methods customers can use to buy products or solve a problem, do so many still prefer the traditional phone call and get reassurance knowing they’re talking with an actual person?

What the numbers say

Nearly two thirds (62%) of customers prefer speaking with a real human on the phone, according to Loyalty360.

Around 46% say they’re likely to choose email, provided it’s a real person answering on the other end and not an automated response.

In fact, only 13% of customers would put their trust in automated bots to solve their problems.

More than three quarters of customers (77%) still believe a phone call is the most effective way to deal with a problem quickly, according to a survey conducted by New Voice Media.

This shows that while digital communication is gaining in popularity and is the preferred choice in some situations, customers still sway more towards talking to people than relying too much on digital and automated responses.

Does personability equal profits?

Personalisation is the popular business buzzword today and businesses are obsessed with finding ways to make the ‘consumer experience’ more personalised.

Usually though this amounts to nothing more than firing personalised offers to customers in ‘targeted’ email campaigns based on previous purchases or browsing history.

Personalisation still lags behind when it comes to customer service for many businesses.

And that’s a problem.

Especially considering more than half of customers are more likely to switch companies if they have a bad experience with their existing supplier, according to Accenture.

On the other hand, customers are more likely to become repeat customers if they get a good personalised experience with a company.

Personalisation in customer service isn’t a guarantee of new customers, but it puts you in a much better position to win and retain them.

Are real people more reliable than the alternative?

Digital communications are highly effective at providing customers with basic answers to frequently asked questions.

Online chat bots can instantly direct customers to the part of a website they need in order to find the product or information they’re looking for.

But this technology has its limits.

Especially when it comes to specific or complex queries.

Because automated response tools need a lot of common enquiries to ‘learn’ how to respond, it means they can’t deal with certain questions.

They’re also unable to divert calls or queries to the relevant person to deal with, leaving customers with nowhere to turn.

Even something as simple as a spelling mistake could be enough to render some digital communication useless.

Calling a person on the other hand greatly increases the chances of resolving a problem quickly.

By having people available for customers to talk to you can either resolve problems on the first call, or at least forward the customer to someone else who can help, or take a detailed message so the issue can be fixed as soon as possible after the call.

This is a level of personalisation that can’t be replicated by machines.

The risks of not getting on top of customer calls

While you might think there’s no risks of missing a phone call when you’ve got an answering machine and a dozen other ways for customers to get in touch with you, you’d be wrong.

The vast majority of customers (85%) say they won’t do business with a company that doesn’t answer the phone on the first try, according to HighLevelMarketing.

So if you are offering customers the chance to get in touch with you on the phone, you need to make it reliable.

This means having staff on hand who can answer calls quickly, and effectively deal with enquiries, whether that’s answering them directly, taking detailed messages to pass on to a colleague, or forwarding the caller to the right person.

Failing to get on top of your business’ call answering means you risk losing a significant amount of business.

Relying on automation is a real customer service risk

There are undeniably benefits of using automated messaging in customer service.

These types of tools are great for providing fast responses to basic questions or directing customers to information they need.

But when it comes to individual or complex enquiries, nothing can compare to having real people on the end of the phone.

And it’s clear that customers agree.

The challenge for businesses is finding the right balance between having staff available to answer the phone – without encroaching too much on their day-to-day jobs.

One answer could be to invest in a telephone answering service.

These services are much cheaper than hiring receptionists to deal with your calls, ensuring you never miss a call and have all customer enquiries dealt with professionally, while allowing your team to continue with important, value adding tasks.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.