The changing face of communications
Seventy years ago when The Queen took up her vocation just 34% of men and 45% of women survived to see their seventieth birthday. Nowadays the figures have risen to 76% and 84% respectively. That’s just one of the fascinating facts put out by communications regulator Ofcom to mark the Queen’s Jubilee.
In addition to health and longevity improvements, the past seventy years has also seen a marked rise in technology; not the least in the field of communications. In 1950 a home telephone was seen as a luxury item, owned by just ten percent of households. Over the intervening period we have seen a rise to near universal home phone ownership, before the advent of mobiles started to reverse the trend.
Nowadays some 34% of households rely solely mobile phones for their voice communications, with landline use having declined to just over sixty percent. This trend is expected to continue with the ongoing switchover to internet telephony (VoIP).
Then there is the humble telephone box. Once seen as a lifeline, in recent years our use of phone boxes has declined as mobile technology has taken over. Nevertheless, in some areas of the country phone boxes are still very much seen as communication necessities.
Now those phone boxes which are situated in areas of poor mobile signals, near accident sites, or which have been used to make regular calls to helplines such as Childline or the Samaritans have been made the subject of strong protection orders. With effect from 8th June, those boxes which are still in use and have been identified as essential to the local community will not only be protected but will also be upgraded to ensure that, once the switch to IP communications has taken place, they will still work in the event of a power cut.
What stories such as these show is that no matter how technology changes people still recognise the importance of phones as a means of communication. It’s a lesson which businesses and other organisations would do well to remember. Admittedly, going online, setting out FAQs and other information on a website may be relatively inexpensive. Nevertheless, cutting off people’s ability to pick up the phone and simply talk to someone may not always be in the long term interests of the organisation or its users.
There will be times when FAQs simply don’t provide the answer. There may even be times when a long drawn out e-mail exchange only serves to exacerbate a sense of frustration or complaint. That is when phones come into their own, enabling people to have a meaningful conversation which leads to a mutual resolution.
And when people do pick up the phone, it helps the relationship if businesses have taken time to consider the communication pathway. Setting up strong hunt groups, arranging seamless caller transfers or straightforward push button options can not only help the caller to feel valued but also helps to quickly resolve queries, orders, or complaints. The mechanisms which we use to communicate may have changed over the past seventy years but our need to talk is as strong as ever.