It’s been years now that articles have been predicting the demise of telephony at the hands of Social Media, Live Chat and increasingly capable self-serve options through websites and apps.
As far back as 2015 for example a report by Dimension Data was confidently predicting “contact centres will manage more digital contacts than voice within two years”*. Which is a big claim, and the sort of attention-grabbing headline that might make you think that budget needs to be in channels other than your phones.
Well, that’s one prediction and I agree that a multi or omni-channel approach is absolutely the way to go for good customer experience. But I’m going to balance it with a few stats from a housing association contact centre we work with directly. Notably these stats are also pre-pandemic – coming from 2019. That’s worth mentioning, because contact centres in many sectors saw big spikes in activity during the lockdowns (which we’ll come back to). Also, 2019 is of course 4 years after the prediction that it would be 2 years before digital contacts took over.
The Housing Association Contact Centre in question saw 4.5 times as many telephone contacts in one year than it did across live chat, email and social media combined. To put it another way, that’s 81.9% of contacts coming by phone.
Now I’ll confess that the figures I’ve presented are a snapshot of one Housing Association contact centre over a particular year. I’m not presenting several years of data that demonstrate a trend. They do however show that, in this case, telephone is extremely important as a communications channel for residents and other customers.
That makes perfect sense to me as an individual and as a professional within the world of contact centres. As an individual, I’ve rented from agencies, had my own mortgage and for a few years I also experienced the trials of being a landlord. I’ve seen interactions around properties from a number of perspectives, but in all of them, talking to a human being was second to none, because properties produce complex questions and challenges. As a consultant for contact centres, I know that it’s the complex queries that human agents excel in solving. Self-serve (when done well) is brilliant and popular with both organisations and customers but when its limits have been reached, it takes a human being to go the rest of the way. That’s when residents pick up the phone.
“But”, you say, “even your stats are 2 years old”. They are, but in my defence the last couple of years have been quite extraordinary. Also, it’s worth noting that various recent studies have also remarked upon the resurgence and ongoing importance of voice contact across many sectors. ^Call Centre Helper’s 2021 survey concluded that 54.9% of all in and outbound activity was inbound voice calls. Zendesk, in 2020 found that between 50% and 66% of consumers across all age groups continue to use the phone to resolve issues. Finally, I’m just going to quote unashamedly from a 2020 article from research by **BT: “74% of customers surveyed phoned a contact centre last year. Fifty eight percent would rather phone an organisation than use any other channel. The phone remains universally the number one contact channel across the 12 countries involved in the survey. And, unexpectedly, the biggest users of the channel are millennials (25 to 34-year olds)”.
And that’s why it’s important to continue investing in telephony and the customer experience it represents. With so many residents and customers still relying on the phone, it’s clear that a poor experience will have a big impact. That experience starts from the moment a caller hears your organisation’s welcome message and IVR. From that second, you’re being judged against the caller’s expectations and hopes for that interaction.
So, you want your system to sound professional, you want your caller to swiftly and efficiently get to the right person to deal with their query, and if they have to queue, they should be hearing more than a ring-tone. Queues are an opportunity to address relevant and useful information to residents – in some cases encouraging channel shift of non-complex queries to other channels.
It can be surprisingly quick to achieve wins in this area without buying a completely new phone system, particularly with help from an organisation like Premier CX. Revised call flows and routing, professional recordings, the correct use of language and signposting, and regular updating can make a big difference to your caller experience and the stats in your contact centre. We’ve also got a very clever piece of technology that’ll make a big difference to both queues and the on-hold space.
So keep investing in telephony and your callers will be more invested in you… and give Premier CX a call, because we’d love to help.
To find more ways to improve your telephony experiences, take a look in The Good CX Guide, an e-book on the topic of caller experience best practice. To download the guide, packed with practical advice for contact centre professionals, please click here.
*Insights on the state of multichannel interactions, and customer management from Dimension Data's 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report.
~Zendesk (2020) Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, pp12-14. Available at;