Your business phone system is a crucial asset, and there are numerous ways you can use and improve it to better serve your customers and achieve your business goals. But it’s hard to make smart, strategic decisions without data.
That’s what this page is for.
So how do consumers interact with businesses over the phone? What do they want? What are businesses doing? What’s working well for other organizations?
We’ve pulled together some of the statistics we’ve found to be most valuable for exploring these questions and projecting the future of the business phone. As much as possible, we’ve traced these stats back to their sources and provided context (plus our own analysis) to help you understand their implications for your business.
Here are 22 phone statistics anyone running a business should know.
For many people, texting is their go-to channel for communicating with friends and family. Collectively, Americans send billions of text messages every day. It’s no wonder that so many businesses have adopted tools and strategies to tap into this channel.
Here’s what you should know about business texting.
Source: Twilio, 2016
In 2016, Twilio surveyed 6,000 consumers across seven countries to understand how people prefer to interact with businesses. Their sample included 2,000 men and women from the US between the ages of 18 and 55. They found that the vast majority of people want to interact with businesses via messaging, where they don’t have to waste time waiting on hold, and they can still expect a quick response.
If you’re not dedicating resources to messaging channels right now, you're not serving your customers in the way they want you to serve them.
Note: For the purpose of the survey, Twilio defined “messaging” as SMS (text messaging) and communications sent through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. While that’s not “texting” per se, businesses often manage these channels together through a business texting solution with a universal inbox.
Source: CTIA, 2016
CTIA is a telecommunications industry association, and in 2016 they conducted a national tracking poll through Morning Consult. 93 percent of the consumers surveyed felt that “wireless messaging is a trusted communications environment.”
This finding is important to businesses because it means that your customers are willing to interact with you via text similar to how they would over the phone, in person, or through email. If they trust your business, they won’t mind providing the information you need to serve them in a text.
Source: Numa, 2020
At Numa, we observed that 11% of all text messages Main Street businesses sent and received throughout 2020 were for coordinating curbside service. Of all the messages that businesses sent and received through our platform, 11 percent were related to curbside pickup services.
Years ago, curbside pickup was a peculiar over-the-top service that only large businesses like Walmart could afford to provide. It requires organizations to dedicate resources to coordinating pickups, which can interfere with other tasks and services.
But texting streamlines the entire process. And the COVID-19 pandemic quickly transformed this luxury service into a basic purchasing method consumers expected businesses to facilitate. And while we had seen restaurants and big box stores dabble with curbside pickup before the pandemic, innovative businesses in other categories quickly developed clever curbside experiences. Healthcare providers, salons, and other companies have essentially used “curbside pickup” to create safer and more comfortable curbside check-ins. Customers pull into the parking lot, check-in via text, and sit comfortably in their car, awaiting a text back telling them when it’s time to come in for their appointment.
Source: Gartner, 2016
When you need to tell a client about a scheduling change, provide a quote, or send a billing reminder, you want to be confident that they’re going to get your message. If your email gets buried in their inbox or they miss your call, they’re not going to blame themselves when they show up in the wrong place at the wrong time or have different expectations for your service. They’re going to blame your business.
That’s the risk you take when you use an ineffective communication channel. But texting gives you one less thing to worry about.
For over 50 years, Gartner has been providing business executives with expert insights into a wide range of industries. They conduct original research on a massive scale, and in 2016, they reported that “various sources” had seen SMS open rates as high as 98 percent, whereas with email, you can expect open rates to look more like 10 to 20 percent (depending on your industry).
Source: Gartner, 2016
When a customer is standing inside your business, it’s easy to direct them to a desired action. But when they’re at home, at work, or on the go, how do you steer them toward the things you need them to do?
In the same 2016 report we cited above, Gartner claims their sources saw text message response rates as high as 45 percent. Need them to schedule an appointment? Done. Is there paperwork a client needs to fill out? Text them a link. Want them to fill out a review? Ask them in a text.
Every text message comes with a push notification. Your customer’s phone will buzz or ring to get their attention, and then they can see what you want with a glance. They can respond asynchronously at their convenience, and if there’s something they need to do online, you can include a link, so it’s only a tap away.
Source: AT&T, 2016
Text messaging has been around since 1992. Consumers expect you to have it. If you don’t have text messaging enabled on your landline, your customers won’t know that. Even after they text you, they may not know you didn’t get their message—they’ll simply assume you’re ignoring them.
According to AT&T’s 2016 data, “150 million texts are sent to landline numbers every day, even though many of those lines are not text-enabled.”
Without business texting, you could be missing opportunities to serve your customers and increase sales every day.
Source: ZipWhip, 2020
People don’t expect you to respond to a text message right away. But they do expect you to respond.
In 2020, ZipWhip surveyed 1,000 consumers and 1,600 businesses to learn about how they’re interacting on mobile devices. 32 percent of the consumers surveyed claimed they had texted a business and never received a reply. People remember those interactions. And they don’t care what your excuse is. If you ignored them or weren’t able to serve them through their preferred channel, they’re going to find a competitor who gives them what they want.
(This is why so many businesses use Numa to automate repetitive interactions—so every customer gets served.)
Source: ZipWhip, 2020
You’ve probably heard people argue that most consumers want to talk to a real person on the phone. Nobody likes speaking out loud to an auto attendant and trying to guess what it can understand. But according to ZipWhip’s survey of 1,000 consumers, there’s a different channel most people would prefer to use for customer service: texting.
People don’t have to wait on hold to send a text. They don’t have to explain their situation multiple times to four different representatives. They just send the text, then go do something else while waiting for a reply. Interacting with your business doesn’t require someone to take a break from work or try to talk over screaming kids. It takes seconds to send, and it’s easy to follow up asynchronously.
Source: ZipWhip, 2020
Not every business has (or needs) text messaging services. But most do by now. If you don’t have text messaging, there’s a good chance that your competitors do—and your target audience will notice the difference in convenience if they interact with you both.
Out of the 1,600 businesses ZipWhip surveyed in 2020, 68 percent of them claimed to have used SMS to interact with their customers.
For decades, businesses have been teaching consumers that when they want to get service over the phone, calling is the best way to do it. We display phone numbers online, in phone books, on ads, and in numerous other mediums.
Here’s what you should know about how consumers use and think about phone calls with businesses.
Source: BrightLocal, 2019
When people need to find local services, they often start by turning to Google. Once they find an option that looks good, they typically call.
BrightLocal surveyed 500 US consumers to learn about how they use Google My Business and how they interact with businesses they see in search results. That’s a pretty small sample size, but they found that 60 percent of respondents chose to call businesses after looking them up on Google.
It’s worth noting that BrightLocal did not include an option for messaging these businesses directly from the search results page. Google My Business rolled out a feature that lets text-enabled businesses prominently display this option within search results, and the survey would’ve been a lot more valuable if they included that. However, the feature is still relatively new, and it’s not very common to see text-enabled businesses taking advantage of this functionality yet. As it continues to normalize, texting will likely become the go-to way people reach out to businesses they find online.
Source: Google, 2013
In 2006, Google launched their click-to-call feature, allowing people to call a business right from the search engine results page. Seven years later, they checked in to see how and why people were using it. They surveyed 3,000 smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 74 and found that 59 percent of them chose to use click-to-call because they thought it would be the fastest way to get a response from the business.
Some of the other common reasons people used click-to-call were because they wanted to talk to a real person (57 percent of respondents), or they felt they needed more information than they’d be able to find on the website (54 percent).
Source: Accenture, 2013
Despite the popularity of calling businesses, consumers have their frustrations with this channel. Accenture surveyed 13,168 consumers across 33 countries, and they found that “91 percent [of] respondents are frustrated that they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason; 90 percent by being put on hold for a long time and 89 percent by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives.”
People get frustrated when you don’t pick up the phone. They also get frustrated when the person who picks up the phone can’t help them, or if they have to wait a long time to talk to someone who can. A phone answering service like a virtual receptionist or call center can help reduce wait times and prevent missed calls, but if they can’t help a caller, your customers will feel like they’re just being passed from one person to another—and most people clearly don’t like that experience.
Source: Hiya, 2019
Whether you’re making outbound calls to follow up with customers, confirm appointments, get approval for a service, or chase down leads, you have to expect that it will take a few calls before you actually get a hold of someone. This wastes valuable time your front desk receptionist or sales representatives could be spending on other critical tasks.
Hiya analyzes spam and robocalls, and the sheer volume of unsolicited and automated calls people receive has likely caused us to answer the phone less. According to Hiya’s analysis of 13 billion monthly phone calls, consumers only pick up 48 percent of the phone calls they receive.
Source: ZipWhip, 2019
Nobody likes to waste their time and attention on a scam or sales call. So when consumers receive phone calls, they look for the most effortless way to determine if it’s relevant to them. ZipWhip surveyed 500 consumers and found that 87 percent of them screened calls from numbers they didn’t recognize.
Source: Avochato, 2019
It’s sad to say, but waiting on hold has become so normalized that consumers assume that they won’t get the immediate service they need when they call a business. In a survey commissioned by Avochato, 92 percent of respondents said they expected to spend five minutes on hold before speaking to a real person.
You might take this as a good sign: people have realistic expectations, and you don’t have to feel pressure to pick up the phone right away. But the reality is that this means people see phone calls as a big commitment. They’re setting aside a block of time just to ask a quick question. And the bigger the commitment it is to interact with your business, the fewer interactions you’re going to have.
Source: Liquid11 2016
Every missed call represents a missed business opportunity. Maybe that caller was in the market for your services, and they were working through the search results until someone picked up. Or they were checking to see how late you were open or if you had a product in stock.
Some people might be willing to call you again later. But everyone else is either going to just give up or turn to one of your competitors.
In 2016, Matt Rayner of Liquid11 wrote that the 10,000 or so companies Liquid11 serves missed an average of around 22 percent of inbound calls. This data included businesses of all sizes, including enterprise-level organizations.
Note: If your business gets five or more calls per day, Numa can save you money and recover lost business.
Source: 411 Locals, 2016
With a small or mid-sized company, you have fewer staff dedicated to answering the phone, and fewer resources to invest in a phone answering service. In fact, the most recent government data indicates that 80 percent of US businesses are “nonemployers,” meaning a single person runs their own company and doesn’t have any employees.
So it’s no wonder that small and mid-sized businesses miss a lot more calls than enterprise-level companies.
411 Locals monitored phone calls of 85 businesses for 30 days. Those businesses were spread across 58 industries, and on average, they were only able to answer 37.8 percent of all inbound calls. Another 37.8 percent of callers wound up in the business’ voicemail box, and 24.3 percent didn’t receive a response of any kind from the business. No one answered, and there was no chance to even leave a voicemail.
Those missed calls add up. And if you’re a small or medium-sized business, you can’t afford to waste so many opportunities to serve customers and close sales. Your inability to answer calls could be holding back your business.
Source: Velaro, 2012
Earlier, we noted that Avochato’s 2019 study found that 92 percent of consumers expect to wait five minutes or more before talking to a person. But interestingly, an older study by Velaro found that 32 percent of respondents said they were unwilling to wait on hold for any length of time.
There are many reasons why there could be a difference here, and neither study has any public-facing information about their sample size or demographics. How long people are willing to wait (or if they’ll even wait at all) could certainly vary from one industry, age group, or region to another.
Velaro’s data is older, but they made an interesting finding that has probably only become more relevant in the years since: younger adults were less willing to wait on hold for any length of time. 40.8 percent of adults between 18 and 24 wouldn’t wait on hold at all, whereas only 27.7 percent of adults over 65 were unwilling to wait.
So who your business primarily serves could impact how many customers you lose by not providing immediate service to customers who call.
Back in the day, voicemail was one of the most reliable ways to leave a message when you couldn’t get a hold of someone over the phone. But the way we use phones has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades, and voicemail has largely stayed the same.
Here’s what business leaders should know about voicemail.
Source: Numa, 2020
Texting takes seconds. And in a text conversation, the entire dialogue can happen asynchronously. You don’t need both parties to be on their phones at the same time, and most people don’t expect an immediate response to a text message.
Given the choice, a lot of consumers would prefer to send your business a text than leave a voicemail.
But how does that work?
Numa is a specialized phone answering service that gives your callers this option any time you don’t answer the phone. We answer hundreds of thousands of calls every month and serve businesses in a wide range of industries. The percent of callers who start a text conversation varies by industry, but our customers have seen up to 80 percent of callers choose texting over voicemail.
Source: eVoice, 2013
How many of your voicemails just say, “Please call me back”? Over the years, listening to voicemails has taught consumers that this isn’t a very good use of time. You can’t skim a voicemail. You have to listen to the entire thing and decipher what the person wants you to do.
Years ago, eVoice surveyed consumers about whether or not they listened to their voicemail, and 67 percent of the respondents said they do not listen to messages that come from business contacts. They recognize the number and even have it saved in their phone, but they ignore the voicemail.
That means when you need a client to send you some paperwork or change their appointment time, they’ll never even know. You just have to keep calling. (Or try a more effective communication channel, like texting.)
Source: eVoice, 2013
If a customer hasn’t saved your number in their phone, they’re a whole lot less likely to listen to your message. They see there’s a voicemail, but if they don’t know who it’s from, they’re not going to listen to it. In eVoice’s 2013 survey, 82 percent of the respondents said they don’t listen to voicemails from unknown numbers.
Only one out of every five customers will listen to your voicemail if they don’t recognize your number. With listen rates that low, your response rates are going to be abysmal. If you have a front desk receptionist or another employee making outbound calls, you’re going to have a hard time making that worth your while.
It’s hard to answer the phones 24/7. But your customers don’t just call during business hours. And whether your employees are busy or everyone’s out of the office, it’s important to have somewhere to direct your overflow calls. Numerous phone answering services have evolved to support businesses by picking up the calls they can’t handle, including virtual receptionists, auto attendants, call centers, and text answering services like Numa.
Here’s a stat you should know if you’re considering a phone answering service.
Source: Vonage, 2019
A lot of businesses use interactive voice response (IVR) to field incoming calls. Also known as an auto attendant, IVR systems provide callers with a menu of options to request information or complete basic transactions. It’s mostly a self-serve process that a caller navigates via voice or their keypad, but it usually provides a path to speak to a real employee.
But people don’t like talking to robots. And IVR often forces people to listen to a lot of irrelevant information before they hear the option they’re looking for. And the thing they’re trying to do may not even be one of the choices!
In 2019, Vonage collected 2,010 survey responses asking consumers about their experiences with IVR. 85 percent of the respondents said they had abandoned a call after reaching an auto attendant. They also found that on average, consumers abandoned 27 percent of calls to businesses because they reached an auto attendant. Additionally, 51 percent of consumers abandoned a business altogether after one of these experiences.
There’s plenty of ways businesses can take advantage of automation and put artificial intelligence to work. But when you ask your customers to talk to a robot, most of them aren’t going to be happy about it.
That’s one of the advantages of Numa. You can automate Numa’s responses, but since the conversations take place via text messaging and Numa always responds in your business’ voice, your customers won’t even notice that they’re conversing with artificial intelligence. They get the service they need fast, and they don’t have to waste time and energy listening to a robot drawl on about options that don’t apply to them.
Whether your goal is to reduce missed calls, spend less time on the phone, lower overhead costs, or provide a better customer experience, Numa is an excellent solution for businesses of all sizes. Numa gives your customers the choice to switch to a text conversation and then answers their questions via SMS.
Any time Numa can’t answer a question, it notifies you in the Numa app, and an employee can respond at their convenience. Numa observes the response and, if it’s a common question, asks to save it for later. When the question comes up again, Numa asks to start answering it automatically. So it’s always learning how to serve your customers better—and more like you.
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