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Guest Blogger

Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-Founder, Natterbox

Once upon a time, business was largely conducted face-to-face or over the phone. But in today’s digital world, we have a choice of anything from live chat, social media and online forms, to SMS, voice, and of course, the now-ubiquitous email. Despite having so many options, the latter seems to be the channel of preference for most companies, with over 128 billion emails being sent by businesses every day in 2019.

But, while speaking via email can be more convenient, convenience comes at a price. For example, the polite undertone suitable for doing business over email can often stifle customer engagement and create barriers for connection that can happen more naturally with an in-person chat, such as over the phone. When companies are limited by email formalities, the relationship becomes transactional, rather than personable and enjoyable for the parties involved.

Yet most businesses live to serve their customers in one way or another, so it’s imperative not to lose sight of their mission, especially during direct communications. By opting for email though, businesses are at risk of alienating their customers by dehumanising the experience and missing the opportunity to build rapport and brand loyalty.

Be more human

It’s estimated the average UK office worker spends two hours per day reading emails, adding up to a whopping 30 days per year. It’s a helpful tool in that it can fit around other more pressing priorities and enables an attitude of “I’ll get back to you later”. One of the problems though is that consumers are constantly swamped by sales and marketing spam – which, most of the time, we don’t even read.

Ultimately, email has quickly become the norm for businesses both for internal and external communication. But as a result, brands are getting lost beneath other brands, essentially rendering the channel increasingly limited in its effectiveness. For customers to comfortably communicate their pain points and describe the problem, empathy and human interaction are essential – yet the required tone and emotion is hard to convey and decipher from words on a computer screen. Consequently, a customer’s unease, discomfort and frustration are often left unresolved, leaving their emotional distress to accumulate into resentment towards the business.

Finding value in the phone

Ultimately, customers want two things. They want their product, and they want it to be served to them easily, efficiently, and by someone who values them as an individual customer, not just as another email address.

Personal, intimate conversations, the kind that can only be had over the phone, are the best way to solve customers’ issues easily, efficiently, and with care. If a brand really wants to win-over a customer, picking up the phone and speaking to them in person is one of the most effective ways businesses can learn and understand their customer’s needs. It holds much more value than other means of communication because it also conveys context, sentiment, intent, emotion, and actions, providing real intelligence and driving valuable business outcomes.

As if to double the importance of that, Adobe and Econsultancy’s 2019 Digital Trends report showed that 44 per cent of marketers think the biggest challenge they face this year is achieving a holistic view of customers across all interactions. When phone calls provide both better customer service and a better environment for obtaining information, it becomes hard to see why they aren’t the go-to method of communication.

The phone plus intelligence equals efficiency

Despite the phone seemingly being the best choice for businesses, it’s true that email is often chosen simply because of its convenience and ease-of-use. But phone calls don’t have to be an arduous process. Using tools to build on the phone offering, such as an intelligent telephony platform, allows the phone to be convenient, simple to use, and empowering to companies and customer service representatives alike.

For example, one of the aspects of email that is attractive to customer service teams is the ability to use it seamlessly across a range of devices wherever they are. Intelligent phone systems solve that by increasing the agility of the phone call so that agents can receive calls at the office, at a remote location, or at home. Issues are also solved much faster for both customer and agent as the platform streamlines the service with tools such as automated authentication, allowing callers to authenticate their identity whilst waiting in the queue. Tedious questions at the beginning of calls are therefore eliminated and both parties can dive straight into the core of an issue, saving time and hassle for all. In this way, the rewards of intimate relationships built over the phone can be reaped, whilst the cost in time and convenience is massively reduced.

Ultimately, businesses that use emails as their main form of communication are prioritising ease and efficiency over relationships and genuine compassion for customers’ needs. Avoiding personal communication exposes the organisation to multiple risks – not only jeopardising the opportunity to improve brand perception but also restore faith and build loyalty. To satisfy a customer and enhance their experience, businesses must take advantage of more personalised communication tools such as the phone.

Just one phone call can help to foster stronger, more personal relationships with customers – the kind of relationships they would like to have.

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