Is it just me or are telemarketers no longer calling us in the middle of dinner? That may have been a rhetorical question. In today’s reality, the role once played by a telephone is now being handled through touchpoints such as email and SMS. Though contact center platforms are still primarily built around voice, channels like web, social media, SMS, email, and chat are preferred owing to their agility and usability. Therefore, it is critically important for businesses to provide customers with multiple channels to contact them. At the same time, customers are increasingly expecting the same multi-channel communication during the outbound experience. But that’s not all, they are demanding multi-channel flexibility and want businesses to know which channel is the most appropriate for every interaction.

With the widespread usage of these newer channels, is there even a place for voice in an enterprise’s outbound communication strategy? Here’s why we are a sharing a few trends and data points around voice and proactive communication that might have you asking yourself, is outbound calling really six feet under?

Trends in voice

The rise of mobile phones and the fall of landlines

When it comes to voice and the telephone, the most prominent trend over the past decade has been the rise in mobile usage and the decline of its counterpart – the landline. What’s interesting is that mobiles are now universal across age and income brackets. Most of all it’s a convenience; to allow people to be contacted on the go, anywhere and anytime. However, this does not mean you bombard them with calls during any time of the day.

Ignoring unknown numbers

Several online polls over the recent past have shown that over 50% do not answer calls from unknown numbers on their mobiles. This may be because we save our contacts and categorize them as friends, family, or others. Any unknown number is assumed to be a nuisance call or a wrong number.

Voicemail usage is declining

The use of voicemail, like the phone, has changed significantly over the past decade. Millennials don’t use them anymore. They prefer leaving a missed call to warrant a callback, sometimes even follow it up with a short text stating the purpose of the call.

Voicemails are left mainly by those making cold calls or businesses with an outbound calling strategy. According to Vonage, there is a double-digit drop year over year in voicemail retrievals. It also shows that email, IM and text all trump voice in ease of use and immediacy. For instance, JP Morgan Chase began an initiative to eliminate voicemail for their workers on a voluntary basis, 65% took up the offer.

Use of SMS and Social Messaging apps

As with most trends, the use of SMS started with a younger user base. Parents began using it to communicate with their children before it exploded. It soon progressed to apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, or WeChat. With many viewing voice calls as overly intrusive, they favor SMS, email, or social messaging because of its unobtrusive nature.

When should voice be used?

The question of the hour – Do people still use voice?

Yes, they do. Despite all the self-service channels that businesses offer, some problems can only be resolved by speaking with a person. In fact, voice is still used to obtain or convey important information that can’t be done efficiently through alternate channels.

Looking at the use of voice from a contact center’s point of view, it is expensive compared to other channels, especially when customers expect consistent, proactive and seamless communication. Use cases may vary for different enterprises and verticals, but the voice in an outbound calling strategy is considered the best choice in two aspects when:

  • ROI on a per call basis warrants its use
  • Important information needs to be delivered

Situations include high-value client sales, collections, or important reminders and notifications. Additionally, in the healthcare vertical, the voice may be required to deliver certain messages such as test results where email and SMS don’t meet HIPAA compliance requirements.

The short answer to the question “is outbound calling dead?” is No. Despite our desire to communicate through newer or alternate modes, voice when appropriately used can foster customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Therefore, the ideal way to view outbound voice is to picture outbound communication as a pie chart. Visualize the different channels (web, email, SMS, voice, or social media) as different parts of the pie. As new channels come into play, they will occupy a portion of the pie. Taking more share as they grow in use can play a distinct role in strengthening your proactive communication strategy.