Friday, November 14, 2014

Voicemail goodbye

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     Statistics show that the days of voicemail are numbered. Recently published numbers reveal that more than three quarters of people do not leave messages when they are sent to voicemail. The simply hang up.

     So why do so many small businesses still depend on voicemail? The answer is simple. Voicemail is convenient for the business--not the caller. And that is bad for business.

     More and more consumers are turning away from voicemail, favoring text messages and emails instead. Consumers know what's convenient for them--even if businesses are slow to catch on. 

     The situation has led to the rise of speech-to-text providers. They turn voice messages into text messages and send them on. Big businesses can afford this extra service, but small businesses are likely to consider it a needless expense.

     All this confirms what I have long suspected. And it comes from my own experience in running businesses. For almost ten years back in the 1990s, I headed the Business Owners Institute in New Jersey. We received a continuing stream of phone calls, and every one of them was answered by a live person--usually before the third ring.

     Nowadays, in active retirement, I write about small business. This means that I speak with many business owners every week. During the last decade, I have been amazed at the number of voicemail prompts I get. Usually, I simply hang up and try again later.

     Prompting a client or customer to go to voicemail simply delays--and sometimes kills--a relationship. Owners of small businesses need to realize that telephones are for the convenience of the customers--not the business. Phones should be answered promptly by a person. If the caller is trying to sell you something, you can simply hang up.

     But if a client/customer is calling to place an order, or make an appointment, it might never happen if your system flips them to voicemail. And you never want to miss that first call from a referral.

     Today, savvy business owners are turning their smart phone into their business phone. You have it with you all the time, and you answer it when it interrupts you. At the very least, have calls from your business phone automatically and seamlessly transferred to your smart phone.

     Technology gallops along at a furious pace. It's hard to keep up with what's available, much less what can be useful or not in your small business. Don't get lost in the glitz and glitter of the latest thing. Keep the focus on the business end of what you're doing.   


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