All businesses need a way for customers, both prospective and current, to get in touch with them. The way we communicate with our customers has changed dramatically over the years, evolving from letters to phone calls to email and now website live chats. 

Live chat, and chatbots in particular, are seen as particularly forward-thinking methods of communication, with a lot of customer demand. Over half of customers would prefer to chat to a person in real-time online over a phone call (Harris Research); what’s more, it’s the channel with the highest customer satisfaction rating at 73% (Econsultancy). It’s now unusual to see websites without live chat options.

Chatbots are the next step up from live chat with support agents. Gartner has estimated that 85% of customer interactions will involve chatbots by 2020, meaning the AI tool won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Evidence has shown that, when utilised effectively, chatbots result in a 30% increase in conversions than other communications. What’s more, 61% of customers would actively choose to interact with a chatbot over a human for an immediate answer, and 21% would buy from one.

This doesn’t, however, mean that traditional methods of communication are dead. All businesses must be available on the phone for customers who have urgent queries or for those who still prefer phone calls. However, many businesses are operating on outdated telephony systems, still dependent on ISDN despite its unreliability and the news that it will be retired in 2025. In response to the ISDN deadline, a number of businesses are making the move to hosted telephony.

Hosted telephony is a cloud-based phone solution hosted in an enterprise-grade data centre, eliminating the need for telephone system hardware and resulting in lower costs due to no capex and no maintenance costs, thanks to built-in disaster recovery. Hosted telephony services are via ethernet internet or a converged fibre broadband service, using the same wiring as your business’ data network.

This part-modern, part-traditional method of communication comes with a range of advantages when dealing with customers. Not only does telephony communication provide customers with the opportunity to have real-time, two-way communication, it also provides a personable experience favoured by many.

There’s no doubt that online methods of communication are on the rise both in terms of uptake and customer demand. However, that doesn’t mean businesses should shift to solely online communications. According to the Office of National Statistics, 90% of UK households have internet access, meaning 10% still don’t; how else will those people contact you?

There’s also the fact that telephone is still a popular method of communication. A Google study found that 61% of consumers get in touch with a business via phone when they’re ready to purchase. Additionally, for urgent queries, a phone call is undoubtedly the quickest way to communicate; the average person types 38-40 words a minute compared to 125-175 words per minute when talking.

It’s clear that businesses must now take a multi-layered approach to their communications strategy. To meet consumer demands, businesses must not only have an online presence, but be available to speak to online whether that’s via a support agent on live chat or chatbots. The concern around the latter is that chatbots are still evolving and therefore won’t be able to answer all customer queries, which could leave them frustrated. These online communication methods, however, shouldn’t come at the expense of telephone communication.

Hosted telephony will allow businesses to save money on this traditional solution, thanks to the eradication of capex costs and built-in disaster recovery. Digital transformation, the use of technology to improve processes, customer experience and ultimately profitability, is achievable in so many ways. By adopting a mix of traditional and modern communication tools, and particularly using cloud-based phone systems, business can respond to customers quicker and more efficiently whilst saving money rather than increasing outgoings.