Why don’t people answer the phone anymore?

Why don't people answer the phone anymore: photo of cell phone with display lit up next to business phone on wooden surface

Long ago, in what seems like a galaxy far away, people used to love getting phone calls! It was like a treat—a fun surprise to hear from a relative or friend who wanted to catch up. 

These days, though, the phone call doesn’t get the level of affection it once did. An unexpected ring is often viewed as a nuisance, met with a Scrooge-like grimace or perhaps a sigh of annoyance. 

Even some small businesses have gotten to the point where they’d rather redirect incoming calls to some interactive voice response (IVR) system. That’s a shame because if you’ve ever called a business as a consumer and got rustled into one of those automated systems, you know how irritating they can be. 

The sheer impersonal aspect of IVRs is enough to turn many callers off. They’d rather reach out to a business that cares enough to pick up the phone. Customers would rather, you know, be treated like people instead of inconveniences.  

So why do some of us refuse to answer the phone anymore? Let’s take a look at the main reasons—and the ways small businesses can avoid those problems entirely!

Top four reasons why people don’t pick up the phone

1. The rise of automated technology

More than a few organizations have turned to interactive voice response systems because they’re convenient. Well, they’re convenient to the organizations, anyhow. For the caller? Not so much. 

But instead of having an in-house receptionist or customer service representative, many businesses simply route all calls through an automated process that attempts to figure out what callers need by asking a series of generic questions in a prerecorded voice. It’s just easier for the business (though not necessarily better, as we’ll see soon enough).

2. Other communication channels

Traditionally, the phone call has been the “go-to” method of sharing information fast. But in our modern society, the ol’ reliable phone call has a profusion of competition. 

We’ve now got a range of alternatives to choose from, depending on our needs and preferences, such as email, text messages, social media, and online forums with live chat features. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s also video chat (via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.). In other words, phone calls where you can see the other person.

3. Spam and robocalls

Spam calls and robocalls are an epidemic—and as Queen Victoria once said, “We are not amused.”

Everyone hates these time-wasters and sometimes it’s hard to tell if an incoming call is legitimate or not. Small businesses are especially susceptible because they don’t know who is going to be calling, so an unfamiliar name or number isn’t necessarily a red flag. Some days, we just want to ignore numbers we don’t recognize.

4. The burden of answering

The last main reason why people don’t answer the phone? They don’t want to!

A call is like a mystery. We don’t always know what’s in store for us if we pick up. It could be some distracting news we don’t want to hear at the moment. Or maybe it’s work we’re trying to avoid or a request for a favor we’d rather not do. Perhaps it’s just an awkward conversation we’d prefer to put off!

But small businesses can't afford to make these excuses.

There are plenty of reasons to justify not answering calls. But for small businesses, these excuses need to be nixed in the bud. Here’s why…

Automated technology means that human connection is more important, not less.

Statistics show that callers really don’t like IVR. Businesses only use such programs to save money, but in the end, it may cost them business (and thus, you guessed it, money!).  

IVR has changed customer experiences for the worse, causing many consumers to specifically seek out businesses that provide a more personalized touch. 

The trick is using technology in a way that helps small businesses with the art of customer experiences over the phone. For example, at Ruby, our virtual receptionists allow your callers to connect with a real person (at a fraction of the cost of an in-house receptionist). 

Automated technology means that human connection is more important, not less.

With all these communication channel options, who wants to use the phone anymore? Well, customers, for starters!

Our annual call trends analysis revealed that, of the top five key call trends, phone calls are still bringing in more leads for businesses. How? Because with all those other options available, customers can research before calling. That means, when they do reach out, they’re probably ready to take the next step. 

In fact, as we wrote in that report, the percentage of calls comprising leads has been increasing in most industries over the last few years—with a 9.6% increase between 2019 and 2022 alone.

Spam and robocalls don’t comprise as many calls as some people think.

Spam and robocalls are a big reason why people may hesitate to answer the phone these days. But sometimes the problem gets exaggerated in our minds. In truth, these types of calls don’t come in as much as we might imagine. We’re just more aware of them because they get under our skin. 

But giving up potential business to avoid a minor inconvenience is a non-starter. Plus, it does nothing to deter those calls. Instead of throwing in the towel, try some quick tricks to tell if a call is “real” or not.

Answering the phone can get you a new customer or client.

Yes, any given call is a coin toss. It could represent a potential negative—and if we simply don’t pick up, we don’t have to find out. 

But let’s be realistic. For small businesses, any missed calls could be missed opportunities. And the odds are far more likely that the “coin toss” will land on something positive. It could be the best news (or biggest sale) of your life! Similarly, it could be a game changer for the caller, if you’re able to provide a much-needed product or service.

Converting callers into customers takes time, patience, and practice, which are things many small businesses simply don’t have the resources for. But with Ruby’s flexible virtual receptionist packages, there’s virtually no reason your small business should ever miss another call.  

Check out this guide to learn how to turn more callers into customers.