Importance of the telephone to businesses in 2014

“It’s 2014. We’re online. Our customers are online. Do we really need a phone number?” The founder of a startup asked me that the other day and it caught me off guard.

Twenty years ago, it would have been a ridiculous question to ask. Yes, your business needs a phone number.

Although the answer hasn’t changed – the phone is still important – modern entrepreneurs may actually need convincing. Here are several reasons why phone numbers are still a business necessity.

Your Customers Still Use the Phone

Not everyone spends the day communicating via social media, email, and chat. There’s no denying that those channels are becoming more important, but according to a consumer research study commissioned by Oracle, “live telephone support is the overwhelming preference for nearly all consumers in North America.”

And we aren’t dealing with computer illiterate users here, either. The consumers in the study were asked how they preferred to engage with customer support once online. That is, when shopping online, how did they prefer to get help.

71% used 800 number call centers and 19% selected Click-to-Call services.

Either way, they chose the phone.

Why Consumers Prefer Calling

Of the consumers who preferred speaking with representatives by phone, 74% said it was because they were more likely to be understood.

Other reasons for preferring telephone communication included the desire to speak with a human, faster results, and no-pre-written responses.

In other words, some of the very things that businesses like about digital channels are viewed as negatives by consumers.

It’s Also a Matter of Trust

How do you feel about businesses that don’t have a website? The average consumer feels the same way about companies that can’t be reached by phone.

While it’s relatively easy to setup a website, it’s tough to fake telephone customer service. A company that makes it easy to call and speak to a live person garners more trust than one operating solely online.

It’s nice to know that there are real people standing behind the company’s products and services. Having a phone number helps you build trust in the era of anonymity.

Google Trusts Phone Numbers, Too

If the fact that consumers still use and prefer telephone support isn’t enough, Google’s opinion should be enough to sway you.

Despite being at the forefront of the internet’s evolution and benefiting from the rise of online communication, Google and other major search engines use business citations to gauge a company’s legitimacy and determine its position in local search engine results. They look for consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations across the web and count those listings as positive signals.

Lack a phone number or have inconsistencies in your listing? It could be a red flag.

Bottom Line: The Telephone is Still Important

As much as you may like to avoid the telephone, there’s no denying that it remains an important part of modern business communication. Consumers prefer it and it’s an important trust signal to customers and search engines alike. Do yourself a favor and establish a telephone customer service channel along with your website and digital initiatives.

Even if you’re just forwarding calls to your cell phone, your business will reap the benefits.

Need help with your voice channel? Take a look at small business call center solutions from CMS, a 24/7 option for having your calls handled by a live team of American customer service agents.