Chatting with customers by text allows business owners to send information quickly and cheaply at scale, prompting some companies to ditch their landlines completely. So, are voice calls obsolete? Inc. asked two founders to talk it through.
Do you need a phone line to communicate with customers?
Jennifer Matthews: It is really hard to convey tone and to sound genuine in an email or a text message. Whether you're talking to a customer or an employee, you would never want them to read something the wrong way.
Michael Lastoria: It's critical to speak directly with customers, but we don't believe talking on the phone works anymore. We are selling pizza--a product that is fast and accessible. Our text-based plug-in hooks you up with pizza, and also delivers advice and casual conversation--it's more authentic to our brand and consistent at scale.
Doesn't a phone line make it easier for customers to reach you?
Matthews: I want customers to be able to think they can pick up the phone and speak to somebody at Tempaper. If you're a designer or a customer and you have questions, why should you have to type all that out?
Lastoria: Our average response time is below two minutes and only getting faster. We have live, real-time responders on the other side of texts.
What about communicating with your employees?
Matthews: Each and every employee has a landline. So we click an extension button and we're immediately having a conversation. Oftentimes, communication is initiated in an email, and then you pick up the phone and say, "What did you think about it? Let's discuss."
Lastoria: The same advantages of speaking to customers apply to employees. Plus, Millennial and Gen-Z employees prefer texting over any other form of communication.
Which method of communication helps you do business more quickly?
Matthews: We have biweekly phone calls with our sales reps, and the agendas are very lengthy. That kind of information needs to be transmitted through a conversation. Having conference calls allows us to cover many topics in detail within the allotted time frame and ask questions in real time to avoid miscommunication.
Lastoria: We currently manage all conversations via text and can process more conversations that way. The phone line that we do have kicks callers over to text. It's the most common form of communication. Text messaging is engaging, empathetic, and easy to use. It also provides us with robust data and insights that are far more useful than what we'd gather with a phone call.
Customers still want to talk to people. As reported by the Harvard Business Review, a 2017 study by research advisory firm BIA/Kelsey found that calls to businesses are expected to exceed 169 billion per year in 2020, and that calls are 10 to 15 times more likely to generate a successful sale or follow-up activity than text-based communication. That's not to say that texting isn't more useful for some businesses than others--it allows information to be distributed faster, and data to be collected more easily. And it can be popular with a younger crowd. But the numbers say you shouldn't give up that phone line just yet.