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Many businesses rely on phone conversations to speak with their customers, but it’s becoming more difficult to successfully forge a strong connection over the phone.

Recently, consumers’ distrust of phone calls has only deepened due to robocalls and automated messages.

Businesses must be aware of their customer’s concerns in order to facilitate fruitful interactions.

This article will focus on why people distrust phone calls and best practices for connecting with consumers over the phone.

Consumers Don’t Trust Phone Calls

Since much of human communication relies on non-verbal cues, people communicate most effectively face-to-face.

Phone calls lack the personal, friendly nature of in-person communication, and 79% of people are uncomfortable offering their personal information via the phone according to a Clutch report.

Robocalls are even more impersonal than phone conversations with a person. A recent increase in of robocalls has only deepened consumer’s unease about speaking over the phone.

The number of robocalls received in 2018 was 26.3 billion, a 46% increase from 2017, according to a report by Hiya, a spam-monitoring service.

Customers May Be Wary Of Legitimate Business Calls

Consumer’s distrust of phone calls has implications for the way your business communicates with customers.

The same Clutch report found that 26% of people can’t distinguish between a robocall and a human call, adding uncertainty to the prospect of picking up the phone.

Many consumers anticipate hearing a robot, or an automated voice, on the other end when they answer a call from an unknown caller ID.

Robot making unsolicited phone calls
Illustration: Chris Philpot. Source: Consumer Reports

As a precaution, customers are likely to let any call from an unknown number go to voicemail.

As a result, even authentic business outreach calls may be met by an inherent sense of caution by external stakeholders.

You Can Establish A Bond With Customers

Despite customers’ wariness, your business can still hold productive conversations over the phone.

To mitigate consumers’ distrust of phone calls, though, your business needs to forge an authentic connection prior to and during a phone conversation.

Two approaches to establish a connection with customers before your calls include:

  1. Verify Your Company’s Identity
  2. Establish Rapport With Customers

1. Verify Your Company’s Identity

Customers are more likely to answer the phone if they know who is calling. They are especially likely to answer if they are already expecting the conversation.

Before a phone call, consider sending a text message or email to let a customer know when to expect a call.

This will enable a more focused, streamlined conversation when you do connect.

Businesses can also double-check that their business caller ID is accurate before scheduling phone calls.

If a caller ID displays the name of your company and the local area code, customers will be less suspicious of your attempt to communicate with them.

2. Establish Rapport With Contacts

Holding a productive, enjoyable conversation with a customer via the phone requires employees to prioritize establishing rapport.

Active listening is the key to making a customer feel valued. For example, allowing an extra beat of silence at first allows employees to gauge the contact’s natural speaking rhythm.

The chart below offers additional ways internal stakeholders can practice active listening via the phone, which include:

  • Attentiveness
  • Asking questions
  • Clarify
  • Paraphrase
  • Matching customers tone
  • Summarize

Coaching Others Chart

Source: Community.cengage.com

Customers can tell if a caller is distracted. You should demonstrate that you are attuned to the customer’s feelings by offering verbal confirmations they understand an answer or require more clarification.

If employees fully engage in phone conversations, their customers will be more likely to divulge accurate, helpful information.

Consider Your Customers’ Mindset Before Scheduling Phone Calls

From afar, the phone appears to offer a cost-effective, efficient channel for customer communication.

However, the recent influx of robocalls has negatively impacted companies’ ability to meaningfully gather information or engage with customers over the phone.

Phone calls can still be a successful means of communicating if employees prioritize forging an authentic bond with their contact.

When companies are smart about navigating phone conversations, they experience a larger return on resources spent and more satisfying, long-term customer relationships.

Nicole Schlabach is a Content and Editorial Associate for Clutch, an Inc. 5000 recognized B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in Washington, D.C.