Yesterday millions of Americans looked up in wonder as the moon blotted out the sun in the first total solar eclipse to cross the US in nearly 100 years. It is considered to be the most-watched and most-photographed eclipse in history. For brief moments during the day Monday, the sky over the US plunged into darkness and temperatures dropped by as much as 12 degrees.
But the temperature was not the only thing that dropped significantly during the eclipse. According to data from DialogTech, inbound phone calls to US businesses also saw a marked drop in volume, especially in those states within the eclipse’s path of totality. Some states saw call volumes drop as much as 42%.
The phone call data comes from the DialogTech voice management platform, a marketing analytics solution used by thousands of brands and agencies to attribute, personalize, and optimize inbound phone calls to businesses. The DialogTech platform tracks nearly 20 million phone calls a month generated by digital advertising, offline marketing, and website interactions.
By comparing call volumes during yesterday’s eclipse with an average Monday afternoon, some startling trends emerged that illustrate the nation’s fascination with the eclipse, which while a wonder to behold, also had a significant impact on US businesses.
The enormous popularity of the eclipse was due in part to its rarity: it is the first time since 1918 that an eclipse’s path of totality exclusively crossed the continental US. But with the excitement and wonder of the eclipse comes a downside to US businesses: a significant drop in customer engagement over the phone.
During the hours of the eclipse, US businesses nationwide experienced an average decline in inbound calls by 9%, according to data analyzed by DialogTech’s Analytics Services team.
The drop in customer calls to businesses was especially pronounced in those states within the eclipse’s path of totality, a 70-mile wide area that moved from west to east, stretching from Oregon at 9:05am PT to South Carolina at 2:48pm ET. As shown in the image below, those areas experienced reductions in call volumes as high as 42%.
The top 10 states impacted by reduced calls to businesses during the eclipse were:
This data also corrects a misconception that because the eclipse happened during lunch hour, the financial impact was minimal. Data from the DialogTech platforms shows that, for many industries, mid-day is when inbound call volumes are at their highest, with consumers calling during lunch breaks to make doctors’ appointments, schedule vehicle test drives at their local dealership, and make vacation plans.
Inbound phone calls are huge revenue drivers for most businesses. A recent Forrester study found that “customers who initiate inbound calls convert to revenue faster, spend more, and have a higher retention rate” than consumers who fill out web forms. They are the leads most businesses want, and thanks to smartphones, calls from digital advertising are on the rise: studies show that search, social, and display advertising will generate over 129 billion phone calls to US businesses this year, up 19% from last year.
This growth in calls is especially true for businesses selling complex, expensive, infrequent, or urgent goods and services, such as those in the automotive, insurance, financial services, healthcare, travel, and home services industries. Their customers often need to speak to real human beings to get answers, book appointments, and make purchasing decisions.
The drop in customer call volume and associated loss of revenue yesterday adds to the already gloomy cost of the eclipse to many businesses, with one study estimating that the eclipse cost US companies nearly $700 million in lost productivity.
If you weren’t able to see yesterday’s eclipse, don’t worry. You don’t have to wait 100 years until the next one — just 7. Another total solar eclipse will be visible in the US on April 8, 2024. Businesses should plan accordingly.
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