Are Your Customers Stuck in “The Unlikely Valley”?

Darin Reffitt on May 14, 2018

In a recent New York Times article entitled “Yes, It’s Bad. Robocalls, and Their Scams, Are Rising,” author Tara Siegel Bernard cites a YouMail statistic that automated call totals reached 3.4 billion in April 2018—a year-over-year increase of over 900 million calls.

Worse still, many of those calls are questionable at best—or illegal at worst—with some senders ignoring requirements for express consent for automated messaging to mobile phones and with scam artists defrauding people with calls about computer problems, debt consolidation, IRS liens, and travel offers that can leave peoples’ financial health in ruins. Answering the phone can now literally cause you harm.

But not answering can be just as dangerous. One of the worst stories cited in the NYT article was about a doctor who—overwhelmed by calls that use “neighborhood spoofing” (e.g., using caller ID that uses the same area code and first three digits of the number being called to appear more legitimate)—ignored what he assumed to be a robocall and was delayed in treating a person who needed his thumb reattached.

So, as customers, we’re left in a gray area where answering any call can be annoying (if not downright harmful), while not answering can leave you uninformed about something important—an injured family member, a missed appointment, a work meeting, or even a job opportunity.

So instead, we answer, and—at the first cold, robotic “hell-o”—disconnect the call.

Is it any wonder why a ringing phone now causes a visceral sense of doubt? It’s driven by the realization that there’s a great chance that answering the call will be a waste of your time, but not answering just doesn’t feel safe.

Welcome to The Unlikely Valley.

Akin to The Uncanny Valley, a phenomenon in which exposure to artificial beings like robots or animations create feelings of eeriness and revulsion in humans when they behave almost but not quite alive, The Unlikely Valley is a phenomenon in phone & voice interactions where a combination of factors—an unknown or unrecognized number on caller ID, a delay in audio response after answering, and/or a robotic or unfeeling tone of voice—creates a feeling of annoyance and frustration; where answering the phone feels necessary and yet futile, all at once.

But people generally DO want to be kept informed and receive voice notifications from legitimate businesses with whom they do business. Fraud alerts from banks & credit cards, delivery reminders from stores, appointment reminders from doctors and dentists, and claim status updates from insurance companies are just a few examples of phone notifications that serve valid business purposes and meet real client needs.

So, how can you leverage the power of Voice interaction by phone and still avoid The Unlikely Valley?

Here are a few of the ways SPLICE has succeeded in delivering messages that people WANT to listen to—in fact, over the last 16 months, 93% of people answering our automated calls have listened for more than 10 seconds—well beyond the average for someone experiencing the phenomenon of the Unlikely Valley.

  1. Create a phone relationship with the customer. Make sure your caller knows the number you use for notifications and encourage him or her to add it to the phone book. SPLICE’s ROCC (Rapid Opt-In Capture and Confirmation) Program enables you to do this at the time of capture, by instantly contacting the customer to obtain a trackable confirmation of the express consent.Formal welcome messages to new customers who’ve provided paper-based or otherwise offline permission is another great way to create an initial touch and establish a contact for future caller ID to be recognized.
  2. Customize your Caller ID. Including your business name in your caller ID will help your customers avoid the initial concern of a call being fraudulent or unwelcome that create the Unlikely Valley in the first place.
  3. Use your Company Name and Customer Name at the beginning of the call. By immediately calling your customer by name, you’ll ensure that he or she knows that it’s not a static recording, and then—by including the name of a company they do business with—you’ll create confidence in the validity of the call.
  4. Include secondary data that only you and the customer would know. Utilize an account number, an order number, or a claim number within your messaging to reaffirm for the customer that this is a legitimate call.
  5. Utilize great audio quality for your voice calls. At SPLICE, we utilize live voice actors and enable our customers to choose a voice talent that matches their brand. But regardless of platform, the better and more human-sounding your voice, and the more emotionally relevant to the situation, the better your chances that someone will want to listen to the message.
  6. Don’t abuse your power. Your customers are giving you permission to contact them based on their trust that you’ll use it responsibly. Be cautious with using that power against them by over-contacting them or by contacting them about what YOU care about, instead of about what THEY care about. Your opt-out rates will thank you.

Want to hear a sample of what we at SPLICE consider “Beautiful Voice?” Try out our real-time demo call. We’ll send you a test call—usually within seconds—that incorporates information you provide in real time!

If you’d like to learn more about how SPLICE can improve your customer experience? Contact us at 1-855-777-5423 or click here.