Is It Time for Business to Dump Voicemails?

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Not so long ago, it was considered that a missed phone call equated lost business. Then the inception of voicemail for business landlines changed the perception so that if a business missed a call it was assumed the caller would simply leave a voicemail message and wait to receive a callback.

However, in more recent years the decline of the landline and the sharp fall in the use of voicemail services have seen business owners opting for alternative communication options.

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Voicemail takes time to retrieve. The recipient is expected to take time out of a busy schedule to listen to the message, interpret the sender’s meaning, take notes about pertinent issues or contact numbers, before responding.

 

It’s also easy to forget information heard via a voicemail a few hours after receiving it unless the recipient took the time to write down the information. By comparison, reading back through a text message can provide instant access to details, such as addresses, times and dates, or other contact details.

A recent survey conducted by OpenMarket in 2016 indicates that a massive 75% of millennials choose texting over talking on their smartphones. People within the same demographic also prefer to receive text messages from businesses instead of phone calls or voicemails that are considered intrusive.

To millennials, the voicemail simply isn’t practical. If those people have access to a faster, more practical way of delivering the same information in less time, they’ll take that option.

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In the past eight years, more people have chosen to shun voice conversations and leaving voicemail messages over the phone and gravitated towards the convenience of text messaging.

 

Many big businesses have been recognized the decline in the use of voicemails for some years now. In 2014, Coca-Cola announced it was ditching voicemails in favor of other communications technologies. By 2015, JPMorgan followed suit, offering to eliminate voicemail for thousands of employees who don’t need to interact directly with clients. Citibank and the Bank of America have since followed suit.

Keeping Voicemail without Listening

The objective behind many companies getting rid of voicemails is to improve employee productivity. If a staff member isn’t sitting at a desk listening to lengthy voicemail messages, deciphering them, taking notes about problems or return phone numbers, addressing the concern, and responding to the request, it’s likely their time will be freed up to perform other tasks.

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However, as with many other technologies that are quickly becoming obsolete, telecommunications companies are striving to provide viable alternatives to cutting out voicemails completely.

 

Voice-to-email: VoIP technology allows businesses to take advantage of features that include voicemail-to-email transcription. The customer leaves a voice message, which is automatically transcribed into words and sent via email. The recipient is then able to read the message at their leisure, but also has the added benefit of being able to file and store the communication for later reference.

 

Voice-to-text: Many cell providers offer the alternative of converting received voicemail messages into a transcribed text message. The recipient receives a text message that can be read at their leisure, which reduces the time spent engaged in listening to a lengthy voicemail.

Downsides of Eliminating Voicemails

While there seem to be plenty of benefits for businesses dumping voicemails completely, there are also some downsides to consider.

Text messages are often so condensed that the sender’s original meaning may not be properly conveyed. There is also the increased risk of misunderstandings and implications resulting from the absence of emotional tone that could lead to unintended meanings. When you add in the extra confusion of some smartphones automatically inserted auto-corrected words, the originally intended message can become unintelligible.

Some customers also still prefer the option of voicing their concerns, complaints or communications with companies. There is a lingering perception with some people that sending an email may mean their message is lost or overlooked, but speaking with a person at the company right now provides an immediate response.

For businesses that are particularly reliant on the personal touch, such as the sales industry, removing voicemail access could alienate some customers who need to develop a strong sense of rapport before building trust.   However, implementing a 24/7 live answering service could provide the personal touch and instant communication some customers expect, while still keeping staff members focused on productivity.

Today’s new communication preferences provide business owners with a range of opportunities to keep in touch with customers. While it appears the decline of voicemail is only going to continue, savvy business owners will ensure their customers always access to a range of communication options that allow them to stay in contact.

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