As a Telecom professional for over 30 years, the communications technology I have seen most often misused is voice mail.
To help JHB Telephone customers make the most of this tool, here are some guidelines for the best use of voice mail – one of the best friends a company and business professional can have.
Voice mail is not meant to be a substitute for answering calls live.
When it first came out voice mail actually was expected to be more of a replacement or substitute for a busy signal, and that is still its best use.
So that said, if more than 10% of your incoming calls are going to voicemail you have a problem.
The good news is that there are some wonderful options out there today that can help you address this. (feel free to contact us for helpful suggestions)
Make your hold/call waiting feature your new best friend.
Instead of allowing a call to go through to voicemail, simply put your existing call on hold, answer the second call and if you are too busy to speak to the person offer to call them back. Or have them call you back. It’s quite professionally acceptable to ask them to text or email you with their call back number if you do not have it. It is not ok to tell them to email you with details of why they were calling you. That is unprofessional and discourteous.
If after several rings you’re not able to answer, have your calls routed to someone else.
Just about all of today’s phone systems will allow you to route calls that you can’t answer to another live person either in the office or outside of it. That’s a much better alternative than having the call go into voice mail.
Do not use the phrase “as soon as possible” in your voice mail greeting when describing when you’ll get back to the caller.
Like it or not that phase has come to mean “I’ll get back to you whenever I feel like it – if at all.” Being impolite to someone in a nice way is still being impolite. Put a time limit on it as in “I’ll return your call most times within 90 minutes (or within 1 business day, or whatever time frame is realistic for you).” Make sure the time frame you use is regularly doable; you don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver.
If in order to get a return phone call from you it’s better for someone to send you an email or text, say so…
…and when that is the case, in your mailbox greeting include your email or the phone number to which they can text you.
In reverse, use others’ voicemail in combination with an email or text to save you time.
Instead of taking the time to write a lengthy email on a given topic, leave that information in full in their voicemail box – the send them an email reminding them to listen to it. I use this technique frequently and it is a huge time saver for me
Acknowledge receiving the voice mail via a text or email.
A simple “I see you left me a voice mail and I will call you tomorrow by ____“ or similar is an easy, fast, and a very professional way to start a return call.
Practice the ”do unto others” principal when it comes to the voice mail messages left for you.
In the very few voicemail messages left for me (in a busy month 5 is a lot, the rest of calls made to me get answered live) my mindset is If I were the person leaving this message, what would I want the response to be? Would I be ok with being ignored or forgotten, or would I prefer at least an acknowledgement of the message by email or text as noted above? Clearly we all would prefer the latter.
Auto attendants are a great tool as long as they can direct calls to a live person.
Especially with the advent of VOIP technology that allows calls to be directed outside the office to mobile phones etc., the auto attendants that callers used to hate – when set up properly – have become wonderful tools to help them direct themselves to a live person (during normal business hours).
Business owners and managers who allow their auto attendants to create “voice mail jail”…
…should be sentenced to 3 hours of watching Pauley Shore perform live… Instead, have your phone system reconfigured to eliminate such bottlenecks! With a little flexibility and creativity it’s usually an easy challenge to overcome
No matter what size your business, if you embrace the above tools in your workplace I think you’ll find you can make use of this technology in the truly beneficial way it was intended.