Consumers Expect Local Businesses to Pick up the Phone

September 13, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Household Income | Local & Directories / Small Biz | Men | Out-of-Home | Paid Search | Retail & E-Commerce | Telecom | Women | Youth & Gen X

Eight of 10 Americans have little patience for merchants who don’t answer the phone – and for the key demographic for buying most home and professional services (adults 35-44) that figure rises to nearly 88%, according to a study conducted in August for FastCall411 by Synovate.

According to the survey, four out of five Americans (82%) regard “immediate availability” by phone as an “important” or the “most important” consideration in selecting a local service provider (e.g., plumber, locksmith):

  • 28% overall described immediate availability as the “most important” factor – 31% of women, 25% of men.
  • 54% described immediate availability as “important, but other factors matter almost as much” – men more than women (57% to 51%).
  • 13% of the sample said “other factors may be more important” – cited equally by men and women.


Additional key findings from the survey:

  • There is a disparity in consumers attitudes, based on age:
    • The youngest group is relatively less likely to put a premium on instant response – 65.5% of those 18-24 ranked immediate availability as essential or “important” vs. 87.5 of those 35-44, the group that values it most.
    • More than any other age group, those 55 to 64 regard immediate availability as the “most important” consideration (34%).
  • Those on the lowest rung of the income ladder – making less than $25,000 annually – regard immediate availability as “the most important” consideration (33%), compared with 26% for those with incomes above $75,000.
  • A higher percentage of those who aren’t married ranked immediate availability as “most important” (31% vs. 26% of marrieds)
  • The demographic difference on the issue of customer service is most pronounced by race:
    • 26% of white Americans described immediate availability of local service providers as “most important.”
    • 40% of non-whites described immediate availablity as their top concern.
  • While 81% of respondents who own their own homes consider immediate availability of local service providers: (26% “most important” and 55 “important”).

The implications of the study, according to Richard Rosen, founder and CEO of FastCall411, are two:

  1. “Voice mail, answering machines, unreturned calls, and unanswered ringing will send your customer straight to a competitor.”
  2. “The message to online local directories is equally clear: clean up your list. Your users have no patience with online searches that turn up six bad, disconnected or wrong numbers out of every 10.”

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