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After the beep: Managing your voicemails better

Andrew Colley
Smarter Writer

Andrew Colley has written about technology, business and media for over a decade - nine years on a national newspaper

Andrew Colley
Smarter Writer

Andrew Colley has written about technology, business and media for over a decade - nine years on a national newspaper

Over the last half-decade or so you may have read a lot of tales touting the decline of voicemail.

Once the miracle invention of the ‘80s — woven into the plotlines of countless TV shows, rom-coms and thrillers — voicemail has been all but displaced by email and text messaging, at least according to some pundits.    

Image shows a woman working at her computer checking her voicemails on her smartphone. Voicemail can still be an effective tool for businesses – but you have to know how to use it effectively.

Certainly, in our personal lives there is probably some truth to this. An oft-quoted statistic from a 2008 study by Opinion Research Corp found that individuals under the age of 30 are four times more likely to respond to a text message within minutes than they are a voicemail and 91 per cent said that they would respond to a text within an hour.

More recently in 2012 blog post, Jack Santos, a research Vice President with IT analyst firm Gartner, said that while it wouldn’t go away altogether the rise of IM and mobility meant voicemail “had descended into irrelevance”. In 2015 JP Morgan Chase revealed it was dumping voicemail for 26,000 staff giving credence to Santos’ view.

However, voicemail is still a highly effective tool for many high-touch small businesses, where customers expect high availability.

For instance, what if you’re a smaller insurance broker or an around-the-clock private paediatric care service? In those cases, customers may be in distressing situations and, rather than send a text or email into the digital ether, would probably prefer to place a call and reach a human voice, leaving a message for a call back if necessary.

Other small business owners may, by necessity, need to take calls in the field, so voicemail is vital when working in or travelling through places where there may not be adequate mobile coverage. 

However, it’s not just these businesses that can benefit. Any missed call (we all need to sleep, eat and go to the bathroom, right?) could mean the loss of new business or, worse, foster dissatisfaction among existing customers. And customers and other callers may not always know when to ring the office line and when to dial the mobile number, potentially creating even more voicemail to manage, split across different phone systems.

So while voicemail is definitely still an important business tool, it all comes down to how well you use it!

Those anti-voicemail pundits tend to ignore advances in call management technology that can make a powerful difference by combining voicemail with newer modes of communication.

Some of these technologies — such as advanced voice recognition, Virtual Receptionists, voice-to-text and voice-to-email — have been available to larger corporations for many years. However, many of them are now affordable for small businesses and individuals.

Consider the example of Night Nannies, an early childcare service specialising in helping mothers manage babies with sleeping problems. Its owner Annemarie Sansom had trouble growing the business in large part because of a poor call management system that led to many missed calls. And for her, missed calls meant distressed mothers. Sansom replaced her old system with Telstra’s DOT (Digital Office Technology). 

DOT provided Sansom with a kind of “virtual receptionist” (sometimes known as sequential ring). This “virtual receptionist” systematically diverts calls, trying one phone after another, until someone answers. Then, in the rare instance that she or her staff can’t answer a call, DOT’s Voice2Email feature converts the voicemail into a sound file and emails it to her.

This has led to happier customers and the small central coast operation now employs 2000 people nationally.

The experience of Joseph Nohra, director of specialist insurance broker FSNI Group, tells a similar story. Nohra’s business can field up to 40 calls a day, often from clients facing tragic or urgent circumstances who need their claims processed quickly.

Before installing DOT, FSNI relied on a chaotic mix of mobile and fixed line providers, so answering calls and responding to messages was often delayed. DOT combined all the business’ voice services onto one platform. Now, the Virtual Receptionist and Voice2Email features mean Nohra rarely misses a call or message.

Text and email messages may trump voicemail in the personal realm, but in business voicemail is still very much a contender.

Learn more about how Telstra’s DOT bundle can help your business.

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