Rediscovering phone calls

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Progress comes in fits and starts.

During the lockdown changes that might otherwise have taken years have occurred in a matter of weeks.

Home delivery is now the norm for many of us and Amazon have the cash to prove it. Never one to shy away from thinking big, founder Jeff Bezos has said he intends to plough the $4bn positive cashflow generated over the last three months into even more growth.

Tesco has increased its capacity for home deliveries to 1.2 million slots a week – more than double what was available in January. The company has also hired 4,000 extra drivers and 12,000 more stock pickers.

Meanwhile, at a more local level, many of us are discovering the joys of buying directly from quality regional producers, from breweries and smokehouses to butchers and cheesemakers. This is one change in behaviour I hope sticks.

On the entertainment front, with cinemas closed, movie studios are pushing forward with plans to reach audiences directly.

Disney had already planned to launch its own streaming service to compete with Netflix and Apple TV, called Disney+, but other studios are getting in on the act too.

Universal released the children’s movie Trolls as an online rental and made $100m in the process.

Cinema chains are predictably protesting this, and some have threatened to boycott Universal when they reopen, but as analyst Benedict Evans says, “A lot of long-term behaviour shifts are being catalysed at the moment with years of pent-up change happening overnight. I don’t think the cinemas will win this one.”

A more unexpected change in behaviour has been the return of the humble phone call.

While Zoom video calls have grabbed all the attention, there has also been a surge in the volume of standard voice calls.

It turns out that the intimacy of a phone call in a world where face to face meetings are impossible, and video calls are often awkward, is not to be underestimated.

“Voice is the new killer app,” explains Chris Sambar, an executive at the American telecommunications giant AT&T. “It’s been a real surprise.”


A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.

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