For most of us, the idea of going without a phone number is almost the same as going without pants. It's an integral part of everyday life, and one that's used almost every day. Facebook, meanwhile, has some plans to take out the phone number in favor of its Facebook Messenger system. Facebook is hardly alone, as apps like AlphaDial also step in to make the phone number less of a necessity.
AlphaDial, currently available for Android devices (which already puts it ahead of Facebook's ambitions of a phone-number-free world) allows users to dial numbers with alphabetic characters. That's nothing new, some might say—phone numbers like 1-800-CALL-SAM have been around for decades—but with AlphaDial, the number doesn't specifically need to match up to the letters. Users can now essentially have a “vanity” phone number, without having to have a specific phone number to match up; 1-800-CALL-SAM, for example, no longer needs to have a phone prefix of 225.
Critics of Facebook's plan to kill the phone number note, and with good reason, that phone numbers have been around for 127 years. The idea that Facebook could just wipe that out could be a bridge too far. AlphaDial, meanwhile, is just adjusting the phone number concept to produce a better result for users. One user notes that using AlphaDial is “...super easy,” and that it's no longer necessary to “...figure out words to phone number”. The app is currently available for free at Google Play, and averages a 4.7 with 42 total reviews.
It would be easy to think like Facebook here, that the phone number is on its way out because the phone is on its way out, but several previous studies have found that the phone is generally the first stop for many customers looking for customer service. The phone is still a major part of an omnichannel customer experience, so making sure the phone number is readily memorable and easy to use is a big part of an overall customer service environment. A tool like AlphaDial helps ensure that short, punchy phone number packs plenty of impact and gets users more interested in picking up the phone and calling. With the phone still so important to customer service, a memorable number to access the call center could be the kind of thing that keeps one company ahead of its competitors.
AlphaDial may be a bigger part of the customer experience than it ever saw coming, and that's good news for the company as a whole. Facebook's aspirations of killing the phone number are all fine and well, but it's a safe bet that services like AlphaDial will at least have time in the sun first.