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My phone rings. It’s a mobile number, and I’m expecting a call.
I pick up the phone. An automated voice responds:
“We are calling to inform you that the IRS has filed a lawsuit against you…”
I hang up, frustrated, and block the number. I’ve heard this same message all month long.
During the course of a normal day, I rinse and repeat this sequence usually at least once, sometimes five or six times. I’m not alone – YouMail’s Robocall Index found that in July 2019, Americans received a huge 4.7 billion robocalls, adding up to a total of 34 billion robocalls received nationwide – around 105 calls for every person living in the US.
Mobile phones were intended to allow us to communicate in better and easier ways. But when the majority of incoming calls are scams, your phone becomes not something to make life easier but something that gets in the way. At worst, robocalls take advantage of the vulnerable. At best, they disrupt your attention, waste your time, and make you discount legitimate calls.
So what does this mean for businesses who use the phone as a primary customer communication channel?
Simply put, you’re attempting to communicate legitimately on a channel that’s becoming characterized by scams.
Law enforcement or telecoms firms haven’t yet come up with a solution. Apps which promise to help don’t help at all and even leak your private data. Joining a do-not-call registry is ineffective against scammers who don’t obey the law anyway, and since the numbers used are ever-changing copies of real telephone numbers, blocking them doesn’t solve the problem.
Combine the robocalls problem with the increasing advantages of digital communication, and analog phone calls are starting to feel more and more unfit for the modern world. Customers with busy lives don’t tend to like having to take time out of their day, battle IVR systems or wait in call queues. They expect to communicate on their terms, in the channels of their choice.
When both inbound and outbound telephone communication is seen by any section of your customer base as outdated and unwelcome, that’s a problem.
Customers are increasingly making the shift to digital for its ease and effectiveness. Some 62% say if digital channels like live chat weren’t available they wouldn’t have bothered to pick up the phone for support. With robocalls sowing distrust in the telephone as a communication method, businesses need to diversify their customer service offerings or risk getting left behind.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the digital communication channels currently available today:
Effective contact center leaders and customer experience professionals should always be looking out for technological and social changes that impact the experiences your customers have with your brand, and robocalls present a new type of business risk that telephone-centric businesses should be aware of.
Because without change, we could see the telephone going the same way as the fax machine or the pager – irrelevant, obsolete, and unfit for effective communications in a rapidly-changing world.