Social Media Killed the Telephone Star?

Is communication via the telephone old fashioned?

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Welcome to Great Britain in 2016. 23.7 million households (89% of us) have access to the internet; that’s a 32% rise in the past 10 years. There is no doubt that more people than ever have access to the internet in the UK and there is also a record number of us on social media networks. Every person and their pet are online these days; posting, liking, tweeting and no doubt researching their favourite brands or businesses they wish to purchase from. The free and easy nature of communicating via social platforms is enticing to many online users. However, when it comes to interacting with businesses, has social media overtaken telephone communication as the world’s method of choice?

Put simply…

No.

Despite the statistics highlighting that social media usage has increased, as well as suggesting that social media has overtaken telephone communication in terms of general social interactions, it is exchanges via the telephone that customers will favor when they need to contact a business. A recent study has shown that businesses are still receiving up to 80% of their incoming communications over the telephone. So why then, with businesses offering customer service through dedicated Twitter help accounts and Facebook pages, are people still picking up the phone when they want to talk to a company?

There are a variety of reasons that a customer contacts a business whether it be through social media or over the phone (or even by email. anyone remember them!?). They could be enquiring about a specific product or service, complaining about a problem or even just asking for help on a topic. One assumption often cited is that people will tend to use telephone communication with a business as a last resort if they have a bad experience through social media. Although this is only an assumption, if it were to be the case then what does that tell you about the quality of interaction you get through social media?

Clarity & Quality

The fact of the matter is that conversations on the telephone will always trump social media interactions when it comes to clarity and quality. Whilst on Twitter your query is limited to 140 characters and understanding a complex idea by reading a Facebook conversation can be mindboggling, speaking to an actual human being is reassuring. A calm, unpatronising tone of voice and an impressive vocabulary can be the little factors that make all the difference when liaising with clients. Communicating through social has its benefits, but when it comes to important business matters, then there’s nothing better than a trained professional talking a customer through their decision.

Brand Identity

Businesses are showing no signs of slowing down their telephone communication usage because they know it’s what the customer wants and demands. Not only this, but having a personal voice and a human touch dramatically increases the brand identity of a company and can make even the smallest business seem influential. Companies who merely use social media or online methods to communicate with customers and clients may find that they become irritated with not being able to speak to a ‘real’ person.

Also, when you note that 75% of potential customers will not leave a voicemail when they are faced with an automated system, it is understandable that many businesses today are employing Telephone Answering Services. As communication etiquette evolves to incorporate online practices, the friendly and professional greeting that an Answering Service can offer is what sets it apart.

Immediate

Social media is often acclaimed for its immediacy and for the ability to have conversations in ‘real-time’. However, apart from face to face conversations, what can be more instant than a telephone call? The time it takes to log in, find the account of the business you want to tweet, tweet and then wait for a reply will often take longer than a simple telephone call. Below you can see a few test tweets I sent out on an average Thursday afternoon:

twitter-communication

As you can see, ASOS were the winners of our quick test with a response time of ten minutes followed by Harrods (31 minutes) and John Lewis (57 minutes). Although ten minutes is not too long, waiting for between half an hour and an hour for a response can make the potential customer become disinterested and either ring customer service or forget the transaction altogether.

However, it must be noted that Harrods and John Lewis, who have physical stores, have telephone numbers that are easily visible with a quick Google search whereas purely ecommerce ASOS do not.

telephone-numbers

Confidential

Every interaction you have with a customer on social media is then available on the public domain until you delete it. In an ideal world every comment you get on your social profiles will be positive and celebratory of your businesses awesomeness. Anyone who follows big companies online knows this is not always the case. Nothing looks worse than public negative comments apart, possibly, from negative comments that you fail to respond to. When a back and forth conversation can’t be established, like with telephone communication, sensitive matters can sometimes be misconstrued and end up having a negative effect on your brand image.

Whilst social media continues to grow rapidly and intertwine with every aspect of our lives, communicating with a business is still mostly done via the telephone. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, we prefer to ring rather than tweet and speak rather than post. Social media gives us a great wealth of communicative options but can’t match the clarity, immediacy and quality of a phone call.

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