Over the last 20 years methods of communication have dramatically changed. Back in 2000 there was no Whatsapp, No Facebook, Twitter or Utube. The predominant means of communication was either telephone or letters.

With the introduction and increased popularity of new technologies communication is constantly changing. Both within enterprise and the public sector significant emphasis has been placed on digitising their customer service with two main objectives; increasing efficiencies and therefore minimising costs and increase customer satisfaction.

Is Voice Dead?

A recent study carried out by MRI-Simmons, stated that in 2012, 94% of their case study group said that voice was their communication preference. By 2020 texting, emails, posting on social media and chat apps had all over taken voice in the poll. 60% of Gen Z respondents said that within 45 seconds of calling an organisation they would hang up if the call was unanswered.

Email has been another crucial element that has contributed to the decline in voice. Organisations can contact their customers and the customer are able to read these messages as and when it is convenient to them. As more and more forms of communication have become more widely used the importance of harnessing these technologies to provide customers with the option of multiple channels to establish contact has become evidently important to them. An accumulation of these now methods of communication had (and I place emphasis on the word ‘had’) resulted in voice being categories as the “least efficient way to contact someone”, some even arguing “voice was dead” as a communication channel.

A Country In Crisis

Figures published during the COVID-19 pandemic show that globally voice calls have increased by up to 40%.

Would you like to be texted a particularly private medical message? Test results for example.

Would you like a Whatsapp chat to deliver a very difficult message to you?
The general answer to this is no. People find comfort in human interact. If you are going through a difficult time, people want to be able to speak another person, to seek guidance and reassurance. Speaking to somebody gives a sense of security.

Changing Times

The shift back towards the increased use of voice does not mean a side-lining in the use of other communication methods. The UK public sector’s omnichannel approach needs to be led by up to date information collected which knows why and how they should be communicating with a citizen based on their preferences and the time and nature of the enquiry. This means that local authorities should always be able to evaluate how to contact a citizen before initiating an engagement. Some examples of this are as follows:

  • In healthcare, a hospital confirming a check-up with a doctor would send a simple SMS for the patient to either confirm or cancel an appointment. However, when they are confirming major surgery, they would use a voice call to convey more information and ensure the patient is correctly informed of potential requirements and preparations.
  • In education, a teacher can send widespread announcements to parents via email and even social media groups. But in the event of discussing a struggling student, a special needs pupil or anything that is private to the development of an individual, the educator would pick up the phone or schedule a video meeting call if the parent was comfortable with the latter.
  • In local councils, while social media platforms are incredibly valuable for getting information out to a community instantly around COVID-19, any information about individual and specific coronavirus cases and control strategies with police that need to be kept confidential from the public would be handled in person or over the phone.

Voice is Alive!

The Covid-19 Pandemic has illustrated that most people prefer a human connection when the stakes are high. The advantages within the public sector in the continued use of voice communications in data privacy and citizen satisfaction far outweigh the perceived efficiencies of 100% digitisation of communications platforms.

To unlock the true value of omnichannel communications, local governments and public sector services must look to invest in both technology that makes the most sense for their services as well as have the expertise (in-house or outsourced) to use that technology effectively. There is certainly a place for voice in this landscape, and when it is correctly used it can foster strong citizen engagement. Local authorities should ensure that communication strategies are not operated in silos for each channel but through a unified campaign orchestration across channels to engage with citizens. Voice is not dead; voice is undergoing a renaissance in 2020. We only need to look at where citizens have migrated for vital communications during COVID-19 as proof.

Based on Ashima Bhatt blog post

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