U.S. Adults O.K. with Automated Communications

Posted by at 3:12 pm on December 15, 2009

A study conducted online by Harris Interactive from September 20 to October 2, 2009, among 2,309 adults revealed that despite widespread negative perceptions of robocalls and spam email, large numbers of U.S. adults are reporting benefits from automated communications, especially younger generations. The research, sponsored by Varolii Corporation shows the key to receptivity is delivering relevant, personalized information that consumers actually want. This is particularly important because adults also indicated they are increasingly overwhelmed with the number of messages they receive and are less likely to respond to generic notifications that offer no personalized benefit.

The study found that the vast majority of consumers value automated personalized reminders. A whopping 96 percent reported they’d find an automated phone call or message to confirm their doctor’s appointment, notify them about a package ready for pick up, or even remind them to pay their credit card bill beneficial. By contrast, only 10 percent of adults consider a generic message about a political campaign or mortgage refinance offers to be very beneficial.

The Data Divide: Generation Y Embracing More Automated Information than Seniors or Boomers

The most striking contrast among adults shows there is a far greater acceptance of unsolicited phone calls and messages by younger generations than older ones. The trend is particularly strong among “digital natives”-” individuals ages 18 to 34, who are more likely to be technology savvy. For example:

  • More than 60 percent of digital natives consider reminders to pay credit card bills to be at least somewhat beneficial (63 percent). Among adults over 55, that number drops nearly 25 percentage points.
  • More than three-fourths of adults over 55 are likely, very likely or extremely likely to hang up on a caller they don’t know (76 percent), while that number drops to 53 percent among 18 to 34-year-olds.
  • Digital natives are also more open to political campaign calls than those over age 55. Twenty-one percent of 18 to 34-year-olds would find them beneficial vs. 8 percent of those over 55. Among 35 to 44-year-olds, 11 percent report these calls as being beneficial.
  • On offers to refinance their mortgage, 18 to 34-year-olds were five times more likely to consider these calls beneficial, compared to those over age 55 (15 percent and 3 percent, respectively).
  • When asked how they’d prefer to be contacted to refill a potentially embarrassing prescription, of those adults who receive emails, text messages and phone calls, 39 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds would prefer getting an automated phone call, vs. 17 percent who would prefer speaking to a human being. By comparison, the number of adults who would prefer getting an automated call dropped to 12 percent among those over age 55.

Communication Fatigue is Real and Inhibits Consumer Response

While the overall findings of the study show consumers do welcome some unsolicited messages, the results also point out that generic messages with no perceived value are not only ineffective, they can actually irritate and alienate the very people they’re trying to reach.

According to a recent Forrester report, 85 percent of the consumers surveyed by Forrester use at least one technology or service to avoid marketing messages (“Marketers: Stop the Abuse! Adopt Preference Management,” Forrester Research, Inc., July 22, 2009). And the problem is growing. Additional findings from the survey include:

  • More than one third of online adults are inundated by hundreds of messages on a weekly basis, usually receiving more than 50 messages on any given day.
  • More than 75 percent would hang up on a caller if they considered the information not relevant or important to them. Among respondents over age 55, that number is even higher at 83 percent.
  • Consumers are just as likely to be irritated by an unsolicited call as by someone cutting in front of them while standing in line -“ respondents of all age groups were evenly split when asked which was more annoying.

“Organizations trying to cut through the clutter need to deliver information that’s both personalized and relevant beyond just including the recipient’s name in a generic message,” said Jeffrey Read, EVP of Field Operations at Varolii. “And for those who count younger adults among their customers or employees, it’s even more important to recognize that younger generations can and should be treated differently for greater response.”

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