“Technology has advanced beyond our wildest expectations. At the turn of the century, mobile phones were only really used for making calls but now, these little devices have become so much more than just a phone. We are walking around with super-advanced and highly-connected miniature computers in our pockets and handbags, and we now can use these devices for virtually anything (pardon the pun). The use of smartphones for messaging and online activity has surpassed and replaced a considerable volume of telephone conversations, and there is a suggestion, out there, that we could potentially be creating a world in which “the phone call” will disappear entirely.
A cursory search of the internet will bring up countless articles about how technology is rapidly evolving and how it is about to change the way we approach everything – in particular social relationships, consumerist habits and business practices. For example, as consumers, we have drastically moved from in-person shopping to online, and we have done this through the medium of our mobile phones. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in the popularity of online shopping, but it had become an established habit of many, long before the Coronavirus raised its ugly head. Why wait in line or drive out of your way, when you have the world of e-commerce in your pocket? It’s convenient, smart and often cheaper.
There’s no doubt that technology has created an exciting world of opportunities, but realistically, as much as we have become a generation of texters, rather than callers, the traditional use of the mobile phone is certainly not going anywhere, anytime soon. If we look at the features that people use consistently on a daily basis, you will find that, globally, the mobile phone features are amongst the most popular. Undoubtedly, the traditional channel of mobile phones is here to stay, and I’ll explain why.
If you think about the various times you have had to make a difficult decision, be it personal or professional, typically we all – Gen Z included – prefer to do so over the phone.
We intrinsically seek out a feeling of guidance and assurance when dealing with sensitive situations. It is a very human experience and one that can not be replicated through instant messaging. Imagine you are making a major life decision to take out a loan to finance or mortgage your home or business. We all know the relevant information exists online – and is just a click away – but there is a certain feeling of reassurance in hearing a human voice on the end of the line, rather than reading clinical, often confusing paragraphs on a screen. In complex scenarios, we still need a real person to help us feel as though we are making the right choices.
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2023 and Beyond
As we enter the second half of 2022 and look towards 2023, we can be sure that e-commerce on mobile phones will continue to grow to fit the public need, and that currently, there is no requirement for a phone call when it comes to simple, consumer decisions i.e buying one-time purchases for small amounts. The risk is low and has no expected long-term impact. The same, however, cannot be said for the upward mobility of the phone. Simply put, when it comes to complex, costly and significant decisions, we choose the phone call every time. The old fashioned call can not be allowed to become a “forgotten” medium, nor should it be left behind with the advancement of technology.
The voice is a form of communication that is imprinted in our hardware. The ability to convey information, emotion, empathy and complex ideas can not and should not ever be replaced. But, that’s not to say it can’t be improved. Phone calls are here to stay, and of that, there is no doubt, but they should not look the way they do in this day and age. No one enjoys the irritating and intrusive experience of receiving a call from an unknown number, coupled with a voice-only introduction. To that effect, phone calls, like other channels of communication, need to move to the digital space, without abandoning the core call features.
Is this a plausible reality?
Technological advances have made this possible, but the process needs to be further streamlined, as unknown numbers, with poor customer experience, belong in the past. Incoming calls should digitally display who is calling and why, as well as enable the recipient to choose whether it is a convenient time to take a call, or decide to push the call to another date. The call should also include sharing options and the effective transfer of documents.
In 2023, we will see the further digitalisation of phone calls, which is set to make life and life’s difficult decisions easier. We are moving towards a world where you can converse with your bank representative over WhatsApp, rather than waiting on hold, hoping someone at the bank is free to speak when you are. Phone calls are here to stay, but they need to work for us and close the gap. They need to become digitalised and personalised for the mainstream consumer and evolve with the times. When they do, the full reach of the simple phone call will be limitless.”