Voice communication is a powerful tool for persuading and influencing small business customers. Today, customers generally prefer to do business over the phone or via digital means rather than take time out of their day to visit your business office.
While in-person communication is ideal for certain transactions and interactions, the phone is still the primary way businesses communicate with their clients. Phone communication lacks visual cues, and without them, your sales reps and support agents only have their words, tone, and inflection to communicate messages to your customers.
Every interaction creates a lasting impression with your customers, and it’s important that interactions consistently reflect your brand.
Why Voice Communication Is Important
Voice is a vital element of every business. Speaking with another person creates a human connection, which is so vital for any relationship.
To help you differentiate between effective voice communication and ineffective voice communication, we’re breaking down the aspects of voice communication.
- Sender — the person sending the message.
- Message — information being sent.
- Receiver — the person receiving the message.
It seems simple, but other aspects of communication play a role in the clarity and effectiveness of voice messages.
- Channel — mode of communication including in-person, voice, email, instant messaging, and chat.
- Feedback — responses from the receiver based on the sender’s message and communication.
- Environment — surroundings, technology, and other outside influences.
- Context — the setting, language, and behavior of the individuals involved.
- Interference — refers to audible noise such as phone static or noise in the room. Interference can also be psychological noise that prevents the receiver from processing the message.
On top of the previous list, there can also be barriers in voice communications. These include:
- An unclear message by the sender.
- Audible noise such as background noise, eating during a conversation, or having a side conversation.
- Prejudice or bias from the receiver causing passive listening.
- Poor retention on the part of the receiver.
- Pre-emptive judgments by the receiver before hearing the entire message.
Whether communication barriers are voluntary or involuntary, the lack of clear communication can derail the best sales pitch. It can also create frustration and misunderstanding in customers who need support.
How Voice Communication Has Evolved
Voice communication has evolved from telegraph technology to cloud technology with a lot of experiments, patents, and mergers along the way.
A Brief History of Telecommunication
- The early 1800s — Telegraph was invented.
- The mid-1800s — Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Tivadar Puskás built on telegraph technology with experiments involving voice and sound.
- 1877 — Telephone exchanges using analog and PBX technology were invented, enabling long-distance calling capabilities.
- The 1960s — Cloud technology and data communications were invented, but these forms of telephony didn’t become mainstream until later.
- The 1980s — Fiber optics were invented, bringing impactful change for voice communication.
- 1995 — VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology was invented to enable human voice communication over the internet in real-time.
- 2015 — An open API (applied programming interface) technology was invented to allow software applications to sync and share data between them.
Inarguably, the invention of fiber optics technology brought the most impactful change for voice communication since the invention of the telephone exchange system. Believe it or not, one glass fiber thread with a circumference equal to a human hair can carry the same amount of voice traffic as thousands of copper wires. In essence, the innovation of fiber optics released voice communication from cabling restrictions, making it clearer, more functional, and less expensive.
Cloud calling voice technology didn’t take off until the mid-2000s. This technology inspired software developers to create new technologies, apps, and services currently being used in call centers worldwide.
A discussion of voice communications isn’t complete without VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and an open API (applied programming interface) technology. VoIP enables voice communication over the internet, and API allows software developers to connect software programs so they can communicate with each other. Both technologies enable call centers to design a unified communication as a service (UCaaS) system with all the necessary tools for sales and support teams.
The Importance of How Your Company Communicates
By placing a phone call to a customer, you’re showing how important they are by making time for them, rather than sending a quick email or SMS text message.
Voice communication without a physical presence is challenging because it’s harder to pick up on someone’s body language and other nonverbal signals. As such, sales reps and support agents face many challenges in voice communication. On top of having to meet their sales quotas, they need to connect with callers and keep building on that connection to keep them engaged and further develop the relationship.
Despite the communication barriers, good communication practices tell your customers so much about your company. With every interaction, they learn about your company, products, culture, and people. Without the right type of communication at the right time, messages get misconstrued or lost, and customers get upset. Interactions that leave customers feeling disheartened and disappointed are poor reflections on your company, and they can harm your company’s reputation in a heartbeat.
Voice communication has its cons, but voice interactions give more insight into conversations than other communication channels. With voice communications, a person’s tone, inflection, and emotions come through, providing greater context and meaning.
The tone that sales reps and support agents use can also make a huge difference. The right tonal quality and inflection add a dose of dimension and emotion to words. On that note, let’s explore tone of voice in greater detail.
How Tone of Voice Affects Communication
When you think of tone, you think of words like music, pitch, and inflection. When it comes to voice communications, good tonal quality is like music to your ears. It sounds nice and makes you feel good. That’s the kind of feeling you want to give your customers.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it.” That sentiment speaks loudly to the importance of tone and the impression it leaves on someone.
How important is tone in voice communications? An article on communication theory called Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels shows the following details about effective communication:
- Body language accounts for 55% of communication
- Voice tone accounts for 38% of communication
- Words alone account for 7% of communication
Your tone can reflect a variety of attitudes. It can be funny, serious, casual, formal, respectful, or irreverent. On the phone, your tone immediately tells the other party whether you’re enthusiastic, direct, or matter-of-fact. At the start of a conversation, the tone plays a big role in how the person receiving the call responds to what the first person has to say. In fact, it can color the entire conversation positively or negatively.
On that note, have you ever listened to sales reps or support agents on the job in your call center?
Here’s what to look for:
- Are they reading call scripts verbatim and in a monotone voice?
- Are they using a positive, upbeat tone of voice in communication?
- Do they pause and wait for a response from the person they called before interjecting?
- Do they change their tone if the customer’s response signals the need for empathy or sensitivity?
Your employees’ tone reflects your business’s character, culture, and branding.
How Voice Communication Differs From Written Communication
Small businesses require some combination of written and verbal communication. Written communication can be a handwritten letter, online chat, email, or instant message. Voice communication refers to phone calls and voicemail communications. Small business owners need to understand the similarities and differences between voice and written communication when setting up communication workflows.
With written communication, you have two components—the words you use and how you design them on a page. The color and design, the type and size of the font, usage of emojis, and even the medium (email, brochure, text) you choose all play a role in the messaging and tone you send to your customers.
With phone interactions, there is a back-and-forth conversation. By contrast, written communication is asynchronous, which means that parts of the conversation happen at different times (except for chat, chatbots, and instant messaging).
The time lag between responses can make written communication more challenging than verbal. When a recipient reads a written response, the sender isn’t there to interpret the receiver’s response, and they’re often in the dark about it until the recipient has a chance to reply.
Because there’s usually no opportunity for immediate feedback, it’s crucial to choose your words and phrases wisely to ensure your messages are accurate, clear, and project the right message and tone. This is an important concept as you establish workflows for email, texting, and chat into your call center.
Developing the Perfect Customer Relationship With Voice
With the importance of voice communications within your business, it’s fair to question how to take your voice communication workflows from “so-so” to “amazing”.
That’s exactly what Apple did when it changed its hiring process. Instead of requiring 100% technical skill, it requires applicants to have 10% technical skill and 90% passion. Apple became the biggest tech company and the first trillion-dollar company, so there’s something to be said for putting a significant focus on attitude, friendliness, tone of voice, and confidence.
How can your small business perfect the customer relationship with voice? If you’ve already embraced digital transformation, you already have the right tools in your call center. If you haven’t, it’s not too late to move in that direction. Here’s how:
- Arrange for call center training and mentoring.
- Set up workflows for analyzing voice calls using voice recordings, call monitoring, and call whispering.
- Implement CRM integrations that leverage call tags and insight cards.
- Utilize call center scripts, but personalize them using customer details.
- Reduce waiting times so customers are less frustrated when they reach a representative.
- Provide greater context when transferring calls with the warm transfer feature (reps can attach a short message to the transferred call).
- Enable customers to use self-service options such as an IVR (leverages speech recognition and voice recognition) so they can opt out of the automated system if they need to speak with someone.
- Use call center analytics to monitor your first-call resolution rate and other metrics.
A digital voice communication system is a part of a greater digital ecosystem that supports the passionate people you plan to hire and train in the nuances of effective voice communication.
The Importance of Messaging Across Your Channels
Messaging across channels means that your company is sending the same message every time a customer interacts with your brand. Here’s why that’s so important: A study by IAB showed that customers that view consistent messages by companies across multiple channels have a 90% greater intent to purchase something. Consistent messaging across channels also improved the customer’s perception of brands by 68%. It’s not surprising that this approach yields a greater return on investment.
Customers are researching and shopping on websites, search engines, social media, review sites—so, consistent messaging inspires trust in your brand.
At Aircall, we understand the value that effective voice communications play in growing your small business and keeping it viable. With the right cloud phone system and the benefit of the many software integrations available in Aircall’s App Marketplace, you have what it takes to show customers that you hear and understand them. And most importantly, you’re willing to earn their trust and loyalty time and again.