Are Consumers Really Hanging up on the Telephone?


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ContactBabel’s report UK Contact Centres: 2017 – 2021 shows that ‘telephony volumes will decline to around 64% of total contact centre interactions by 2021’. With these figures decreasing year on year, why are consumers still hanging onto the telephone?

As the digital age continues customer services have changed rapidly over the last 2 decades. Call centres have become contact centres, specialising in answering customer enquiries from multiple communication channels as they have grown popular amongst consumers. This includes email, live chat and social media etc.
However, even with mobile customer service app penetration expected to grow to 62% by 2021 and 1 in 4 UK contact centres intending to implement live chat in the next 12 months, the telephone still equates to the majority of inbound enquiries.

Alienating Generations

As a teenager, every other weekend would be spent at my Nan’s. Part of this visit would be sitting down at her laptop and rather than just doing the task she needed myself (buying something on Amazon, or adding an attachment on email etc.) She wanted a full explanation on how to do it whilst she completed it and wrote down instructions.

It’s great that she wanted to learn. However the issue was after several years of explaining the same things over and over again, it was clear she just couldn’t get her head around the technology.

And this is what many of her and surrounding generations experience, as they grew up without technology. Therefore, contact centres need to ensure they are not alienating any generations by favouring newer technology, there should still be the option of calling, therefore consumers can decide what contact method they want to use rather than be coerced and become frustrated at the whole interaction.

A Multichannel Approach

Another reason the telephone will remain within the contact centre regardless of declining numbers, is that the contact channel is still useful for certain conversations. For example, enquiries that are more complex to be handled via live chat but need the instant conversation aspect are better suited to a phone call. Or issues that have been investigated and resolved are politer to follow up with the customer by telephone rather than a cold standard email template. It is these differentiators that will set great customer service apart from average.

ContactBabel reports that over 50% of an agent’s time is spent on inbound calls. Whereas their overall communication time is 65%, which includes live chat / email enquiries as well. As text based communication has grown more popular, the agent’s idle time has decreased as they can fill their time handling other types of enquiries.

Agents need to be trained to deliver reliable customer service across the communication channels they are using. This ensures that there isn’t a weak link and customer expectations remain consistent.

I recently came across a customer service story where consumers asking an organisation via social media were getting a completely different answer to the same questions when asked via another communication channel. This needs to be avoided at all costs as consumers will lose faith in the company and could be acting on false information.
Telephone isn’t Going Anywhere

The contact centre has grown and adapted as the digital age continues. However, with many organisations needing to take a multichannel approach, telephone enquiries will still be required as certain generations prefer to make contact via this method and specific enquiries are easier to respond to over the phone. Therefore the telephone will still be an integral part of the contact centre for at least another couple of decades.

For more information regarding implementing multiple contact channels within your organisations, take a look at Our Tools presentation.

Gemma Baker
Gemma Baker is the Marketing Executive for UK web chat software provider Click4Assistance, with a range of knowledge in live chat software and customer engagement channels, customer service methods and improving online business.


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