The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) adoption of a new policy to give wireless carriers more authority to block robocalls and unknown callers is expected to further impact legitimate businesses already affected by consumer reactions to robocalls.
According to industry research, Americans have already received about 25 billion robocalls this year — which works out to about 76 calls per person. The new policy, aimed at providing consumers some relief, allows phone companies to block suspected illegal and unwanted calls “by default,” which means they don’t need a customer’s permission — as long as customers have the ability to opt out. The policy will also allow consumers to block unknown numbers themselves.
Some companies had asked the FCC to delay the move because they are worried about phone companies blocking legitimate automatic calls, such as those from banks and credit unions calling to confirm a suspicious credit-card transaction. The new FCC policy, however, gives more freedom to wireless carriers to offer call-blocking features and implement call-blocking at the carrier level, even going as far as offering a “white list” feature that could block calls from numbers that are not stored in a consumer’s phone.
Consider consumers’ frustration.
The FCC’s policy is too new to accurately assess the full impact it will have on businesses, but it is clear that consumers and regulators are ready to hang up on robocalls.
According to Consumer Reports, 70 percent of people of those surveyed said they no longer answer calls they don’t recognize, in order to dodge spam calls. Consumer and policymaker reactions to robocalls have implications for businesses of all sizes, making it challenging for them to develop relationships with prospects.
What can business owners and entrepreneurs do in an environment where cold-calling prospects is losing its effectiveness as a way to fill sales pipelines? The answer is a personalized, multichannel approach that includes email, texting and social channels like LinkedIn; all are key to helping businesses navigate the challenges of establishing relationships with new customers and maintaining relationships with existing ones in this era of call blocking.
Personalize Your email outreach.
Email is one channel businesses can use to connect with customers they don’t have success reaching by phone. Email, after all, is a proven communication channel in sales. However, considering that the average person receives 125 business emails a day, businesses must find a way to rise above the noise. According to Salesforce, “the batch-and-blast method doesn’t work on connected customers.”
Instead, the company’s research found, when evaluating purchases, customers weigh a company’s level of personalization equally compared to how they weigh its reputation.
Those emails that are most effective in starting a conversation offer timely, personalized content. Potential customers respond best to emails that deliver relevant content addressing their specific pain points and offering solutions for overcoming those challenges. Personalized emails generate a median ROI of 122 percent according to the Data & Marketing Association and Demand Metric.
Tip: Depending on how much information you have on a prospective client, personalize everything from the subject line to the content of the email. Make the content specific to recipients — whether it’s based on birthdate,location or something else — to deliver content that catches their attention and engages them.
Send a text that doesn’t feel invasive.
Text-messaging is another strategy businesses can use to develop and maintain relationships with prospects and customers. Once exclusively reserved for personal communications, this digital channel provides a more direct way to reach customers; it also meets customer expectations for a convenient, frictionless way to interact with companies. According to a sales communication survey from my company Lunar, texting is now a widely accepted and expected form of business communication.
Texting also offers the advantages of being instant and mobile — two attributes that make it easier for businesses to reach and engage prospects. With an open rate of 98 percent, text messages are one of the most powerful strategies businesses can use to drive customer engagement.
Texting’s personal roots, however, make it easy to commit a business texting mistake: Specifically, texts should be short and easy to understand. So, if you’re texting about complex topics or need more than a yes or no response, you might want to use text messaging to schedule a call.
Tip: You also shouldn’t send a text message without an introduction or attempt to use another means of communication. The first communication a potential customer gets from you should never be a text, as that can feel invasive. Instead, texting is a great follow-up tool.
Use LinkedIn messages as your new cold-outreach tool.
The challenge for businesses using cold-calling — made significantly more challenging in an environment of robocall blocking — is being able to connect with the right person. Companies can use LinkedIn as another strategy to successfully reach prospects. With more than 630 million members, including 90 million members who are senior-level influencers, LinkedIn can be a go-to-resource for cold outreach, building relationships with potential customers, and establishing expertise to convert leads into buyers.
Companies can become active on relevant LinkedIn groups as one strategy for connecting with prospects. This activity not only helps businesses identify prospects, but can help companies establish expertise on a topic and pave the way to building a relationship with group members as a trusted expert. Businesses can realize the most success from this tactic by consistently posting in these groups and generating discussions on new issues and innovations in an industry.
Tip: InMail, a paid feature on LinkedIn, is another effective way enterprises can reach prospects without resorting to the phone. As is the case with email, personalizing these communications is key to developing an ongoing dialogue with a prospect. Response rates are highest when these messages are crafted to start a conversation and provide a target prospect with valued, relevant content.
As policymakers work to curb robocalls and the consumer robocall-avoidance backlash continues, legitimate businesses are being caught in the cross hairs. What can they do?
Clearly, those operating in this environment must reduce their reliance on cold calls and find new ways to connect with prospects by taking a personalized, multichannel approach to drive customer engagement. Email, texting, and LinkedIn should all be part of any company’s engagement strategies to effectively establish relationships with prospects and maintain relationships with existing customers.