Telephone rings supreme as study finds customers prefer phone calls to emails

Over a third of punters would choose to phone a customer support line over emailing or texting.

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Helena Young

AI technology has had a big impact on workplace communication, but new research shows customers still prefer a good old-fashioned telephone call when it comes to interacting with businesses.

38% of Brits say phone calls are their favoured help line, based on a survey of 2,000 adults from communications provider Gamma Communications. According to the data, the dog and bone beats out more advanced messaging services like emails, chatbots, and video calls.

Those who might have previously written off their business telephone system as old hat should think twice. A further 69% of consumers said they were most likely to contact via phone call first before trying other methods when seeking assistance from a business.

The findings come ahead of the Big PSTN Switch Off, when all telephone lines will transition to Internet Protocol (IP). Firms may view the research as a timely reminder to invest in an IP phone system to save customer relationships and keep service desk costs down.

Human touch still most important aspect of business communication

Gamma’s research throws into question the common-held belief that business phones are on their way out. While the number of us making personal phone calls has dropped – particularly for young people – customers in need of support find it harder to cut the cord.

Notably, 91% of respondents to the Gamma survey agreed it is important to be able to easily call a business customer service line when they need assistance, indicating that phone calls have a significant impact on the customer experience.

The research reveals a clear preference for human-to-human interactions over virtual assistants. 46% half of respondents said they value phone calls because they feel better understood when communicating verbally. Another 45% believe that the support they receive over the phone is of higher quality in comparison to other contact methods.

The biggest frustration when contacting support agents was listed as encountering automated responses (49%). AI tech has hit the headlines this year, and doomsayers are already discussing its potential to replace thousands of UK jobs this decade.

However, it’s clear that key customer service skills such as empathy and efficiency will be harder to replace. The Gamma findings suggest that punters dislike AI systems that lack the nuances of human emotions, creating interactions that feel cold and impersonal.

It seems the average consumer isn’t ready for a robot butler just yet. Instead, providing easy access to a real-life agent via your phone line emerges as the most effective way for businesses to improve the customer journey.

VoIP phones could dial back communication spending

To further underscore the incentive to invest in business telephones, 80% of consumers say they would continue shopping with an SME that offers superior service over the phone. This suggests that losing the blower could impact customer loyalty and retention in future.

As customers call for smoother, human interaction with brands, it would be smart for them to answer. But many have already dialled down their service desk offerings, extending complaint resolution timelines and reducing staff as a way to save money.

Some brands have even turned free marketing and advertising channels, such as Facebook and Instagram, into a help desk. But while this channel may require fewer staff members to monitor, it risks compromising customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

One low-cost solution that does not involve pulling the plug on telephone systems is to purchase a VoIP phone. Compared to traditional landlines, VoIP phones are based over the internet and have reduced fees and setup charges – especially for international calls.

The software can also be accessed from any device with a WiFi connection, including desktop and business mobiles, ensuring that employees are contactable from remote working locations.

Chris Wade, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at Gamma Communications comments: “Telephone calls have withstood the test of time for being one of the best ways to achieve that interpersonal bond.

“All businesses can use this to harness the, sometimes underrated, value of telephone calls to offer quality service and yield customer loyalty.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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