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Dialing Up the Boom in the Voice Channel

Service and support in the B2B space (especially for SaaS companies) is often offered only through digital channels. But eliminating phone support for consumers is still quite unusual. In November 2022, Frontier Airlines made headlines by abandoning phone as a service channel, saying most customers preferred communicating through online channels. The boom in Generative AI coupled with aggressive smartphone adoption may push more companies to do the same. After all, maintaining a call center is expensive.

But doing so risks alienating one demographic in particular - the Baby Boom generation. Born between the years 1946 and 1964, there are roughly 72 million "boomers" in the US alone. The youngest boomers are nearly 60 while the oldest of this generation are in their mid to late 70s. According to the American Medical Student Association, one in five Americans will be a senior citizen by 2030.

Yet, as of 2021, Pew Research Center reports that, among Americans 65 and older, 39% don't own a smartphone. That's despite smartphone adoption among US adults hitting an all-time high of 85%. Why?
You could blame it on the old trope of seniors not grasping new technology. You could call them Luddites. In some cases, this may be accurate. But there's something more systemic driving this.
Cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Psoriatic arthritis. These 7 medical conditions, common in seniors, make handling smartphones difficult. Vision loss makes it difficult to see the content and controls. And arthritis makes it painful to tap away at the screen. While voice assistants make it easier to access many smartphone functions, it's clear that many seniors simply have no interest in smartphones. When they need help with products and services, the voice channel is tried and true.
While life expectancy in the US took an unusual downward turn in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the steady rise in life expectancy in the US has been essentially unabated since the 1950s.
Not only are Baby Boomers the wealthiest generation, holding 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. and spending over $548 billion a year, but they also they spend more than any other generation, across all categories.
What's the takeaway here? If you provide products or services directly to consumers, you cannot afford to ignore a segment of your customer base that is living longer and has money to spend. But if you shift all your service and support away from the voice channel, that's exactly what you'll be doing.