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Voice mail is a convenience in personal communications. No one wants to miss what mom has to say when she calls.
But in business, voice mail is a frustration. You don't call a business to chat. You call because you want to order something or you have a problem that needs attention.
Example: Cheryl was frequently busy when the phone rang in her small pet supply store. Incoming stock had to be unpacked and put on the shelves, and inventory had to be taken. So she let the caller go to voice mail. Click. The caller was gone. Little did Cheryl know at the time that the caller was new in town and was calling to know if Cheryl stocked flea baths for the caller's five pets. Cheryl missed the opportunity to speak with a new customer, welcome them to the neighborhood, and add them to her customer lists.
When calling a big company, you are frequently shuttled off into an automated system. Some computer geek has programmed answers to all the questions he could think of. But your question is not among them and you are left hanging, more frustrated than before. You finally get a live person on the line who is reading from a prepared script. You give up.
Studies show that more and more callers who are shunted to voice mail simply hang up. I recently saw one statistic that put the number of hang-ups at over 75%.
Big companies are taking note of this phenomenon by--you guessed it--putting more automated systems in place. Well, that simply creates new problems for big companies.
Owners of small businesses don't have the staff or the money or the technological prowess to automate everything. They simply answer the ringing phone, talk through a customer's concerns, and solve the problem.
It doesn't take a genius to know what works best. It's another way that small business can run circles around the big guys--for the time being. Or at least until the big guys figure out the artificial intelligence game and hit us with the next wave of automated answers.
Voice mail can be a wonderful thing--especially when the business is closed during off hours. Just make certain that you use voice mail for the convenience of the caller, not your own convenience.