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What is Voice Calling for in 2020?

< 17 September 2019 >

Voice Calling

A millennial meme resurfaced recently, along the lines of ‘what is the purpose of this app, and why can’t I delete it?”, pointing to an icon reminiscent of a 20th century landline handset.

It’s a fair question, because even though we still call the smart devices the majority of us live enslaved to these days a “phone”, the chances are we rarely use it for this purpose. There are so many other ways to communicate nowadays, and the professionally-flourishing millennial generation has a declared dislike of voice calling in general – research shows that they consider it time-consuming, stressful, inefficient, and disruptive (that’s disruptive in the bad way that millennials rarely use the word) – a presumption that whatever the recipient’s present activitie,s they are less important than the caller’s need to demand their attention at that moment.

Some commentators postulate that the Millennial generation (and Generation Z, closely following them into the workspace) have also lost the art of paying auditory attention, and point to a rise in use of closed-captioning for TV viewing from those generally too young to have acquired hearing deficits. 

When questioned about this trait, my own Gen Z daughter muttered, while flicking her glance from the big screen to the one in her hand, that subtitling helps her not to miss anything if she ‘zones out’ – by which I think she means being able to read the dialogue back on the screen helps her catch up when momentarily distracted by Whatsapps and Instagram alerts or whatever else is binging away in her handset. Because nothing ever receives 100% of her attention. I should know.

So don’t bother cold-calling a digital native to sell them something, indeed there’s growing evidence that they’re unlikely to take a call even from a loved friend or family member. Responding to a ringing phone creates feelings of anxiety and loss of control for many, and they’d prefer to get back to you in their own time, probably via some other medium. Even for Gen Xers like me, an unexpectedly ringing phone does trigger a jolt of adrenaline – what’s the matter, why are they calling? Did someone die? And if I don’t recognise the number, it probably won’t get an answer.

Unsurprisingly then, all generations are demanding new ways to interact with call centres and customer service generally, and finding the legacy default to voice calling can be a barrier to effective communication. Why are so many businesses still pushing their customers into a phone interaction, when there are so many channels to choose from? 

Those who have grown up in the digital world have high expectations from unified communications technology, and they don’t expect the channel of choice to define the kind of interaction – instead, they want the conversation to flow seamlessly from one medium to another as it unfolds. They expect to get a personalised reply on Twitter from a CX agent who will then open a live chat to explore their complaint, hop on a screenshare to see the difficulty directly, escalate a hardware replacement where necessary, and ask them to feed back on the interaction – all without a word being spoken aloud.

Because talking on the phone is so 20th century.

Omnichannel is the future – not just a plethora of options, but fluid and relevant transitions between them without loss of context, putting the user at the centre of the continuous conversation.

That’s the promise of Unified Communications 3.0, the reason you need a truly integrated strategy for internal and external communication today. And the reason you need to understand the omnichannel future… by registering for UC Summit 2020 today.


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