Last updated: Dear smartphone, you had me at hello

Dear smartphone, you had me at hello


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There is no reason anymore for people to say “Hello,” “Hallo,” “Allô ,” “Álo,” or “Ciao,” when they answer their phones. And, in case you think that’s a curious statement, it really is not. It has everything to do with the future of commerce.

A phone is not just a phone, anymore. It is your connection to the entire world. It is a place where you can shop online or price compare while standing in line. You can connect your doorbell camera to it to see who is standing on your porch, and you can hook your Canary cam up to it to see what the dog is doing. Your car can send you its diagnostic data, and your power utility can help you determine the optimum time to run your washer-dryer. Frankly, your washer-dryer can probably tell you that by now.

The smartphone is power. It gives every individual unprecedented flexibility over every situation of their lives. It does not make them omnipotent, but it gives them more knowledge and influence than at any other time in history.

When a voice call comes in, you know immediately from the caller ID who is calling, and you can answer with a direct, personal greeting. If you know who is calling, why pretend you don’t? If you don’t recognize the number, you can let the call forward to voicemail. If it turns out to be important, you can call back. If it’s an unwanted solicitor, you can stop them from wasting your time.

Some recent phone scams, including people claiming to be from national tax agencies, take advantage of the fact that far too many feel obligated to answer the phone when it rings. The fact is, you don’t have to do that. And if the caller ID display does, in fact show that it is the tax and revenue authorities, then fine. Call them back using the number on their website. If the call was legit, any agent there will be able to help you. Do it on your terms, nobody else’s.

The point here is that the phone – as it is still called – is an incredibly powerful instrument that touches every area of our lives. There is an app for everything and connectivity is virtually guaranteed. You, as the owner of that phone, are in control of that power. It is yours for the taking, and the talking.

There is a lesson here for everyone who works in a customer-facing industry like high tech, utilities, automotive, or retail. The customer is learning, day by day, that they have the power to stay or to go, to buy or to abandon, to listen or to ignore. Reaching these people is no longer a matter of sending a bulk mailer to their front door or their email inbox. They are not a massed collective. They are individuals. The truth is, they do not have to answer you.

What people will answer to, though, is a personalized relationship with someone they trust, and no company is too big for this. The data is there. Relationships matter.

You can put money on the fact that more and more people will dispense with the quaint habit of asking “Hello?” when they take a call. As they do this, they are showing you that they are transforming, from a nameless individual answering the call of a telephone, to an empowered consumer choosing to welcome you into the next few minutes of their life – or not.

Companies everywhere, B2B and B2C alike, must take stock of this.

The empowered, individual customer is the future of commerce.

And they have you, literally, in the palm of their hands.

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