Do you keep a few excuses handy to avoid a phone call? Lamenting how your phone’s about to lose charge or how you have spotty service on your side of the building and an email would really be better?
Or maybe you’ve become very creative in your efforts to find loopholes around calling a company, including investigative Google searches and trawling through the archives of Yahoo! Answers. You might even decide to rearrange your schedule and try talking to an employee face-to-face.
Anything to get around the sweaty-palmed dread of dialing the restaurant for a reservation or wasting time while you’re left on hold, right?
Well, there’s hope for those of us who hate talking to people on the phone. It’s the rise of business texting.
The world of business communication is ever shifting. It evolves to keep up with technology and consumer preferences. And right now, the tides are turning away from phone calls as texting tools enable businesses to improve their customer experience and response rate.
The majority of consumers have received texts from businesses—and 73% want to receive more. Business texting provides a huge opportunity for those willing to adopt the technology, and that’s largely due to the number of people who hate talking on the phone.
It’s a consumer pain point and business opportunity. So why is something as simple as texting the key to reaching your phone-averse customers?
Nearly half of your customers are introverts
Contrary to popular belief, introversion is not shyness. Introverts can be as confident as the most gregarious extrovert, but a phone call may not play to their strengths.
Introverts generally want more time to think about what they’re going to say before they say it. They may find small talk tiring, or just plain pointless. Unlike extroverts, introverts often have to work hard to avoid becoming over-stimulated with too much information by keeping healthy boundaries. They will not appreciate time-wasting disruptions.
None of these conversational preferences lend themselves to phone calls.
For one, phone calls are rapid-fire. You may not be talking to an auctioneer on the other side, but the speaker and listener are constantly switching roles. A phone call can feel unstructured, making difficult for an introvert to make all the points they’d planned when the conversation takes a turn. Or worse, they can feel blindsided with the need to make a split-decision without time to process everything.
No wonder so many introverts find phone calls frustrating.
Two-way texting, on the other hand, offers more time for the recipient to craft their answer. It plays to the introvert’s strengths, whether they’re a customer or a member of your sales team.
Phone anxiety is more common than you think
Introvert or not, phone calls can be stressful.
Our new research on Why Customers Don’t Answer the Phone Anymore found that 77% of people experience some degree of anxiety about talking on the phone. And 41% of respondents said it was a regular occurrence that happened often or very often. Even the word “anxiety” was one of the most common terms consumers used to describe phone calls.
This consumer anxiety can range from general discomfort to an intense fear and distress that can be found in the 15 million U.S. adults affected by social anxiety. If talking on the phone can be such a pain point, it’s no wonder that many customers are unresponsive to business calls.
Being phone averse may seem like a modern fad, with everyone DMing each other and using apps to order pizza. But there are actual psychological explanations for why so many us get anxious or uncomfortable on the phone, and a lot of it has to do with the way we communicate in person.
Think about it. You have two strangers talking and exchanging information that requires complete focus, like schedules or the prices and features of package deals. On the phone, all of this is happening at a rapid conversational pace, but without any facial cues. They’re flying blind in a real-time conversation.
Ever noticed how you pay a lot more attention to someone’s voice and tone when you’re talking on the phone, more than you would face-to-face? It could be that you’re compensating for the lack of nonverbal communication that’s usually present in our real-time conversations—the facial cues, gestures and encouraging nods.
This body language happens naturally, which is why you may nod when you’re on the phone only to realize a second later that the person requires verbal agreement. Nonverbal communication gives us live feedback. It helps us evaluate if the other person is interested in what we’re saying or growing bored and calibrate accordingly.
Meanwhile, the over reliance on verbal communication can make pauses feel like they stretch minutes over the phone. The crackling silence after you’ve said something may leave you feeling judged. After all, without any facial cues there’s no way to know if the person on the other side is angry, or if they are just looking through their notes.
We’ve grown used to these natural ebbs and flows in face-to-face conversations, but phone calls can feel more like an event. There’s a start and stop time where someone will dial, and someone will hang up. It’s compressed time, which adds pressure, and that can create some phone performance anxiety.
“There’s no do-overs with a phone call,” said Dr. Bo Bennett, a social scientist based in the Boston area. “With text you could start typing something and then you could back it up. There’s that little safety net there. With the telephone, once you kind of say it, the damage is pretty much done.”
Having time to respond can mitigate some of that pressure and anxiety. With an email, you can draft a script of what to say, check your calendar for an appointment date or wait until you’ve left your meeting to answer a question. An email gives the consumer more control, but it loses all the momentum that a phone call would provide and leaves both sides in limbo.
A text, on the other hand, is responsive. It’s high priority for consumers, with 83% replying to texts within 30 minutes. And businesses can capitalize on that pace without seeming intrusive or pushy.
Plus, texting saves everyone time from playing phone tag.
People don’t wait by the phone anymore
Despite mobile phones being nearly ubiquitous, customers aren’t waiting around for a business to call. They’re busy living their lives—working, parenting, going out to eat, watching Netflix.
A business can’t see a consumer’s calendar, so there’s no way to know if they’re stuck in a meeting at work or on vacation in a different time zone. Inadvertently catching a customer when they’re busy is inconvenient at best. In fact, data shows 96% of people described phone calls to be “disruptive.” A phone call requires someone’s full attention, so they have to stop whatever they’re doing to answer properly, or risk losing the momentum and forgetting to call back.
It doesn’t help that many people also report feeling uncomfortable speaking on the phone when others are around. This behavior stems partly from anxiety on feeling judged by the people around them, but it’s also about privacy, especially for phone calls regarding medical, insurance or financial businesses. And there’s some truth behind this paranoia. “Halfalogues” have been found to be more focus-consuming for bystanders than in-person conversations. So, even if your coworker doesn’t care about you rescheduling a dentist appointment, they’ll have difficulty tuning it out.
A phone call may be as fast as a face-to-face conversation once it’s started, but there’s a lot of “dead time” spent playing phone tag. That’s a waste of time for the customer and business, and it breaks up the customer experience. It gives the customer time to look elsewhere.
And when it comes to something simple like an appointment confirmation, 67% of consumers would actively welcome a text from businesses.
Phone communication is changing
The Pew Research Center reported that 96% of Americans own mobile phones. This number stays true across demographics of age, race and education. We’re more digitally connected than ever and that makes it easier for customers to find and reach out to businesses.
Texting is no longer reserved for friends and family members. Our 2019 State of Texting report found that 76% of consumers have already received a text from a business. Most customers want to talk to another person—not a chatbot, and not though short code responses. They want fast, personalized responses that rival a phone call.
Millennials and Gen Z overwhelmingly prefer to text businesses, which may not be a surprise. However, the majority of older generations also want the option to text businesses (though they may prefer less emojis in their correspondence.)
It’s hard to talk about modern phone usage without mentioning robocalls. They remain the top consumer complaint sent to the FCC. Spam pollutes communication media. It’s part of the reason we stopped seeing email as a priority medium—there’s just so much junk and clutter.
Spam calls are especially annoying to consumers, in part because they’re so prevalent. Spam calls ballooned to an estimated 25.3 billion in the first half of 2019 alone–a 128% increase from the same period in 2018.
Consumer behavior is adaptive, and in order to avoid robocalls many have found that it’s easier to just ignore calls from unknown numbers all together. Nearly 88% of consumers reported rejecting or ignoring calls from unknown numbers “often” or “very often.”
It’s a hard habit to break. Hiya’s State of the Phone Call Report found that Americans only answer 52% of the calls received on their mobile phones. Businesses are fighting an uphill battle to reach customers through phone calls. People are simply not picking up.
How businesses can keep up
The public opinion on phone calls is shifting and consumers are turning to text messaging to avoid robocalls, anxiety and disruption to their days. If phone calls aren’t going through, and emails are too slow, then what’s left?
Texting for business.
If a business wants to keep up with their customers and connect, they’ll need to look to the new frontier of business communication and add the ability to text. Let the two mediums work in tandem from the same number to improve your customer response rate and overall experience.
Those of us who hate talking on the phone will thank you for it.
For more detailed data on customer behavior and communication trends, check out our free e-book, Why Your Customers Don’t Answer the Phone Anymore, and learn how you can incorporate texting into your business strategy.