Today there are over 1.5 billion websites and 4.4 million Android and OIS apps. For virtually every human need there is a dizzying array of online platforms, apps and online stores ready and willing to meet it. From banking, online insurance policies, buying real estate, filling a wardrobe, navigating in traffic, managing the kids’ soccer team to ordering pizza – every aspect of life can be managed via a smartphone.

In exchange, customers have given companies unprecedented access into their personal lives. Just think, fitness gadget manufacturers can track a person’s morning jog and sleep patterns. US social media giants keep an individual’s family photos. Food-ordering platforms know what people eat, and streaming services know what they like to watch or listen to.

So, it is somewhat surprising that, while consumers and business customers have well and truly embraced a digital lifestyle and workflow, one thing remains prominently positioned on every website quietly reassuring the customer the company is real and can be trusted: the company phone number.

Confidence comes from making a call

While some digital marketers believe the phone is ‘the old way’ of doing business, customers disagree. Ordering a pizza is one thing; making a high value, complex, or long-term purchase decision demands a level of due diligence before handing over sensitive information. The rise of phishing scams, identity theft and compromised personal data has increased customers’ wariness when dealing solely with automated digital transactions.  Picking up the phone is the simplest way to give the customer confidence they have made the right choice.

A business phone number prominently displayed on a website, app, or email signature conveys many positive things about a business, building trust with the customer.

When needs are complex, and customers want someone who cares

The voice channel is critical to any enterprise, even with the advent of AI and machine learning. Phone conversations hold much more long-term value than any other means of communication because the contact agent can convey context, sentiment, stories, emotion and take immediate action – providing real intelligence and driving valuable business outcomes.

Advertising a phone number tells the customer that the company is ready and willing to take their call and they can speak to a real person!  Not everyone feels comfortable and confident transacting purely online. A study by Google revealed ‘Click to call’ is one of the most used features with 70 per cent of mobile searchers using click to call to connect with a business directly from the search engine results page and 61 per cent of consumers believed click to call was most important in the purchase phase of the shopping process.

A study by American Express revealed that while self-service and digital platforms (online chat and mobile apps) was the go-to channel for simple inquiries, as the complexity of the issue increases, customers are more likely to seek out a face-to-face interaction (23%) or a real person on the phone (40%).

Real-time problem solving

Customer satisfaction isn’t the absence of issues; customers are satisfied when their issues are resolved well. The phone is ideal for difficult problems or urgent enquiries and can often result in an instant solution. The culture of immediacy has fundamentally changed the nature of customer interaction and redefined good customer service. Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer research found 64 per cent of consumers and 80 per cent of business customers expect a company to interact with them in real time, and a phone number offers a real-time conversation.

Stronger connections create loyalty

Humans are wired for connection. In business, connection equates to higher customer engagement and sales revenue, as research confirms great customer service leads to increased loyalty and higher consumer spend.  The study by American Express found consumers spend 17 per cent more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service.

Buy Local

Finally, advertising a local phone number reassures the customer that the company operates locally, which is an important factor for trustworthiness in a global marketplace. For example, Insure 247 positions its Australian number and address on its Australian homepage, and the NZ local number on its NZ site, giving customers confidence that they’re speaking to a local operator. Taking out an insurance policy or making a claim requires a tailored approach, and individual circumstances must be considered sometimes with grave urgency, hence the phone is such a vital link for Insure 247 customers.

In an era where trust seems at a new low, building trust with customers and delivering superior customer experience is a critical priority for business growth. Even with a strong investment in digital and social platforms, a business cannot afford to diminish the value of its phone number and telephony infrastructure considering the confidence and value this offers customers.

Charles Heunemann is managing director and vice president for Asia Pacific at Natterbox Limited