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Voice mail can be a good thing. And it can be a bad thing.
One thing is sure. Voice mail is on the decline. More people are sending text messages these days and more are using social media for contacts.
The telephone is absolutely necessary in business. But a phenomenon is occurring with voice mail and people in small business should take note.
Voice mail can give you a clue as to the age of your callers. Older callers are more likely to leave a message on your voice mail. No so with the younger set--I'm talking teens and twenties and even thirty-somethings here. These callers simply hang up.
Voice mail can be a useful tool in small businesses. Frequently, a small business is only one person. Think therapists, chiropractors, pet groomers, small shop owners, electricians, plumbers, and the list goes on.
A specialist needs to be doing the jobs that will bring in the cash flow. Voice mail helps small businesses organize time. The distractions of ringing telephones can be re-directed to voice mail. And these can be tended to at a time more convenient to the business owners.
Therein lies the problem. The caller doesn't care about your convenience.
Example: I write a weekly business column for a local newspaper. The column is informational and directed to the general reading public. Businesses are introduced and the write-up offers good promotion for the small operations. To do groundwork, I call a dozen or so business owners every week. Frequently, my call goes to voice mail. I leave a message, identifying myself, referencing the weekly column, and offering to write about the business in the next paper. I am always careful to say that I'm not selling anything, saying that it will be free publicity for them. About half the time I get a callback within a day or two. Some call back a week or a month later. And others are never heard from.
Voice mail is too often used for the convenience of the business owner, not the caller. Callers expect a live voice to answer. All of us know the frustrations of not being able to get a live person on the other end.
When people are directed to leave a message on voice mail, more and more of them are hanging up. You might have lost a sale, a referral, a business deal, or worse. The caller might never call--or visit--again.
Research in this area tells the tale. The latest statistics I've read show that about 75% of callers simply hang up when directed to voice mail. The younger the caller, the more likely the hang-up.