Robocalls may influence businesses’ ability to engage with customers over the phone, according to a new survey by Clutch, a B2B research firm based in Washington, DC.

The report found that a number of people are uncomfortable providing private information over the phone to any number, not just a robocall, and many say they can’t quickly distinguish between a robocall and real human. These findings suggest that robocalls may be impacting people’s trust in phone communication, but businesses can take a few easy steps to combat that influence.

Phone calls allow businesses to engage with customers on a deeper, more personal level, as long as the business can prove they are not a robocall.

Chris Kontes, chief operating officer of Balto Software, spoke to Clutch about the data, providing industry context.

Emphasize Rapport, Friendliness, Active Listening to Build Trust in the age of Robocalls

Nearly 1 in 8 people (79%) say they are uncomfortable sharing private information, such as a credit card number or a Social Security number, over the phone.

For businesses that conduct transactions over the phone, this can reduce their win rate and prolong the time it takes to engage with customers who do eventually convert. 

Kontes offered three main tips for reducing customers’ hesitancy around sharing private information in phone calls:

     1. Rapport

“Sales representatives or customer service agents don’t need to make the caller their best friend, but they need to have some baseline communication skills in order to overcome the minimum acceptable level required to build trust,” Kontes said. 

Rapport is a nebulous term to define or train employees on. Merriam-Webster defines the term as “a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.” Kontes sums it up as “the practical ability to communicate.”

Generally, employees should go out of their way to understand customers’ needs and the context of where they’re coming from. They should make the conversation feel easy and natural. By doing so, customers will trust the employee more and therefore feel more comfortable in sharing private information.

Certain tools like Balto Software’s can help businesses ensure their employees are saying key phrases while on the phone, to better help them build a rapport.

     2. Friendliness

“Friendliness is a function of the representative’s tone and cadence,” Kontes said. “Customers prefer to communicate with people who speak at a similar pace, communicate answers clearly, and allow the conversation to flow naturally, all which indicate friendliness to the caller.”

     3. Active Listening

Kontes advises employees to mainly only speak about 40% of the time while on the phone with a customer and never more than 70% of the time.

“That way, the caller/customer is able to actually share their thoughts with somebody who is actually listening, whereas representatives who talk too much often miss the underlying point the customer is trying to make,” Kontes said.

Businesses can always offer the option to exchange private information on alternate channels after speaking on the phone. Pointing customers to a secure online payment portal, for example, can provide comfort to especially nervous customers.

How to Emphasize Your Business’s Legitimacy Over the Phone

Sometimes, customers may be hesitant to pick up the phone for fear of a robocall, even if it’s a legitimate business calling. However, there are a few simple steps businesses can take to prove their legitimacy from the moment the phone rings.

Clutch’s report offers a few tips to hammer home the trustworthiness of your business when calling customers. Businesses should:

  • Confirm Their Caller ID Presence: Simply ensuring that your business’s name comes up clearly and accurately can increase pick-ups.
  • Send a Text Before Calling: Sending a text before calling a customer can let them know the incoming call isn’t just another scam.
  • Avoid Automated Communication: When possible, businesses should try to have live humans speaking on the phone; it’s difficult for customers to trust a robotic voice. If a business needs more resources, it can seek out a virtual assistant or an answering service firm to provide help.

Overall, Clutch’s report suggests that businesses must think critically about their phone communication to ensure they stay successful in the age of robocalls.

Originally published Aug 11, 2019 4:06 pm