Consumer research shows that people like to be able to call businesses to make purchases, especially when it comes to high-stakes products and services like insurance and healthcare. It’s no secret that people like to talk to real people when they are making a stressful purchase. But when it comes time to try to get a prospect or customer to answer your calls, things get a little tougher. The CEO and co-founder of Drips.com, an SMS industry expert and the pioneers of conversational texting, joins us for a guest blog on why over 80% of consumers won’t be picking up phone calls in 2019—and how to get them to answer your calls.
The Anatomy of Attempting a Phone Call
During my commute home, I’ll often call my closest friends, family, and co-workers to just check in unannounced. This is about the only time I make unsolicited phone calls because this is usually the result:
Call my best man Tim: Two rings, sent to voicemail.
Call my co-founder and CTO: call answered.
The call transcript:
Anthony: “Is this urgent?”
Me: “No, I was just…”
Anthony: “Ok, I really can’t talk, in the middle of something.”
Call my wife: no answer.
Call my sister: Text back: “I’m still at work.”
Mom…my mom will always answer my calls: Goes to voicemail, get a semi-automated text: “I’m busy, what’s up?”
“I’m busy, what’s up?” is the response I get from calling my own mother. She obviously has too much going on to take a quick phone call, but she’s happy to engage in a potentially drawn-out text thread.
Getting Phone Calls Was Once Rad, Now Bad
So what has changed since the time where we actually liked getting phone calls? Let’s rewind to 25 years ago when I was 12 years old to find out. Back then the home phone rang, my sister and I would literally fight our way through the house to the kitchen to earn the privilege of answering the phone so we could see who was calling firsthand.
Today, even though everyone is positively glued to their smartphones, most people would sooner cut off their own arm than to tap the green answer call button. Even if it’s from their OWN SON, apparently. I’d like to think that it’s not just that my friends and family don’t like me enough to talk to me on the phone. So what gives?
Sure, we all have to deal with the deluge of scammy robocalls, which makes the sound of your phone buzzing about 900% more annoying than it used to be. Hopefully, new FCC rules will help with that, but this still does not explain why my mom thinks it’s cool to ignore my calls. Or why I also disregard phone calls from my friends, family, and coworkers.
The simple answer is that we’re too busy with other stuff and we have a ton of non-voice phone call ways of communicating with each other now. In the blissfully internet-free early ’90s, my sister and I were bored to death. The only practical way to communicate was to go knock on your friend’s door or call them on the phone. To further illustrate how utterly bored we were, we had one of those TVs with the bunny ears (plus tinfoil for extra signal) and about 12 fuzzy channels. The only value it brought us was TGIF (thank you Urkel!).
It would be years before Blockbuster Video had gone nationwide and a decade before on-demand video would be available for the most affluent of households. It really wasn’t that long ago that the only thing you could get ‘on demand’ was PIZZA! Domino’s was the tip of the spear in a trend that would change the face of commerce and communication worldwide.
The Smartphone Ruined the Joy of Phone Calls
Today, we have these magical devices called smartphones in our pockets. Whether they be iPhones or Androids (or Blackberries if you’re my COO), these phones and their addictive apps and games assure that we may never be bored again. I can download a book on my phone, listen to podcasts, pause live television, record a ton of shows remotely that I’ll never get to on my DVR. If I need a ride I don’t have to sit around and wait for a friend to pick me up. Just click and there’s an Uber. I don’t even have to go to the store anymore because Amazon can get just about anything to my door in a day. (Ok, fact checkers, for Akron Ohio the best case is 2-day prime, but you get the point.) Just like optimizing a landing page and removing friction for higher conversion, they’ve removed the friction and inconvenience of having to leave the house. Hell, if I want a date tonight (yes, even in Akron), I can simply swipe right.
So with all of this opportunity to entertain herself, my mom ignores my call and texts me back to tell me she’s busy.
Texting is the On-Demand Phone Call
The psychology here on the passivity of communication is interesting, but what it comes down to is that texting is ‘on-demand’. Each party, my mother and myself, or business and consumer, can do it when it’s convenient for them. There’s much less pressure or expectation to immediately reply. It’s not that people don’t want to talk, they just want to do it on their own terms and timelines.
We have, in many cases, replaced a five-minute phone call, with a five-day conversational texting thread. All, conceptually, for the sake of convenience. Do you know what’s not convenient? Taking an unscheduled, unwanted call, when you have something more important or interesting to be doing.
A comedian recently said that calling him without sending a text first is like walking in his living room without knocking on the front door. While that is funny, for businesses that need to contact their consumers, it’s not a joke. Even if we’re talking about calling someone who is already your customer with a legitimate business purpose (helping them fix their account, etc.) if you do it out of the blue, they are going to feel like you are invading their privacy. Now, if you’re calling to upsell a customer or ringing up prospects, hell, you might as well kick down their front door at dinner time and spit in their mac and cheese.
Getting people warmed up with conversational text messages is that knock on the door. It’s you saying “hey, I’m your neighbor and I’m here to help. Let me know when it’s a good time to talk!” Then your customer can hit you back when they have some spare time and either finish the transaction over a text thread or schedule a time that works well for them. This makes the customer way happier to talk to you and far more likely to convert.
Check out this post to see how to prevent barging into your customer’s lives and connect with them via text message to increase your sales. You may even be able to use some of these tactics on your mom.