Sep 22, 2023

Phone’s Enduring — But Changing — Role in Business Success

Technology is continually changing how small and medium-sized businesses communicate with their customers. From email and chat support to social media interactions, many channels now cater to the evolving needs of consumers. 

But despite this, the phone still remains an integral tool for businesses to connect with their customers. However, the phone is too often not answered by a live person, forcing the caller into a mixture of legacy, menu-punching answering services. The phone is a channel badly in need of modernization. 

This blog will look at why customer interest in the phone still persists, why it’s failing, and some solutions that dramatically improve how businesses can use their phones, including next-generation AI-powered voice assistants.

  • Customers prefer calling, but get answering services
  • Today’s challenges: missed calls and long hold times
  • Why is the phone still popular?
  • What’s wrong with chatbots, voicemail and IVRs?
  • How AI voice assistants are different
  • SoundHound Smart Answering

Customers prefer calling, but get answering services

Despite the growth of digital communication methods, the traditional phone remains a vital tool for businesses worldwide. 60% of respondents in a survey of small business customers prefer to reach small businesses by phone once finding a local business online.  Others find it simpler to just call a business, hoping somebody will pick up quickly.

pie chart showing how customers prefer to reach local businesses.

Instead, they’re confronted with delayed pick-up times, long hold times, voice mail, patience-testing convoluted IVR menus, or distant virtual receptionists that don’t really understand the business.

Today’s challenges: missed calls and long holds

A diminished ability to answer the phone is the situation in an age of staff shortages.

SoundHound’s own research shows that SMBs miss between 20 to 30% of calls, and Liquid11 says that businesses miss 22% of calls.  

Instead, they’re confronted with delayed pick-up times, hold times, voice mail, patience-testing convoluted IVR menus, or distant virtual receptionists that don’t really understand the business.

Phones offer versatility as they are accessible to a vast majority of the population, making it an inclusive communication tool. Regardless of a customer’s age or technical proficiency, they can easily connect with a business through a phone call. This versatility ensures that businesses can reach a broader audience and cater to various demographics effectively.

Also, real-time interactions and personal touch is an important element in the phone’s popularity. Unlike text-based channels, phones provide an opportunity for real-time interaction, allowing businesses to address queries, concerns, and issues promptly. 

Why calls are being missed: 

  • Insufficient staff
  • Existing staff focused on other customer service issues
  • Phone service not prioritized
  • Calls come after business hours
  • Older technology can’t keep up with the changing business landscape

When calls are missed, callers are sent into various labyrinths of answering services and each has significant drawbacks.

What’s wrong with chatbots, voicemail and IVRs?

Many people might ask why AI phone answering is any better than a chatbot or a voicemail or an IVR response if a caller is trying to reach a person.

While chatbots provide valuable information, they are largely rules-based, scripted programs. They are best suited for providing an interaction based solely on the most frequently asked questions. A ‘FAQ’ approach only supports very specific keywords being used. 

And who hasn’t encountered an IVR system with its convoluted menu structure that has left many of us screaming “help” into the phone or frantically pressing the 0 key — sometimes to no relief.  

How AI voice assistants differ from other answering services

Conversational AI, or voice AI, on the other hand, absorbs customer feedback and learns in real-time, which can be applied to the same question at a different point of a client’s journey. This eliminates the need for users to repeat key information over and over. 

Through advancements in speech technology, such as natural language understanding (NLU) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), AI voice assistants can also understand complex queries and compound questions, providing a superior customer experience.

stylist cutting hair, while Smart Answering handles phone calls

SoundHound Smart Answering

SoundHound Smart Answering integrates advanced artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to deliver seamless, efficient, and human-like customer interactions.

100% of calls answered: AI-powered phone assistants are always ready to go. Customers can access support at any time, improving overall customer satisfaction and reducing the chances of missed opportunities.

Efficient and lower operational costs: By automating routine tasks, such as calls about hours, directions, parking or even requests for information on policies or pricing, automated voice assistants reduce the staff workload. This streamlines operations, enhances efficiency, and cuts down operational costs in the long run.

Personalized customer experience: Sophisticated AI algorithms enable AI-powered voice assistants to analyze customer data and deliver personalized responses. By accessing customer histories and preferences, businesses can provide tailored solutions, leading to higher customer satisfaction.

Scalability: AI-powered phone assistants are highly scalable, making them suitable for businesses of all sizes. Whether a startup or a multinational corporation, these systems can adapt to varying call volumes seamlessly.

Live person availability and flexibility: SoundHound Smart Answering lets business owners easily forward calls to specific mobile phones of managers, sales, or support staff.

Get a voice assistant demo customized for your business

Find out how simple it is to set up and interact with an AI-powered voice assistant. Provide a few details below and one of our experts will reach out and create a voice assistant demo fully customized for your business in a few minutes.

Ready for a custom demo of your own AI voice assistant?

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