Ideally, no call goes to voicemail. But it happens. Ideally you are alert, 100% focused, perky, welcoming and clear to all callers that call you and answer with enthusiasm and respect. That doesn’t happen. Unless you have NO tasks, NO proposals, NO presentations, quotes, marketing timeline items you are working on, you will not be able to answer every call. If you can answer every single call to your landline, mobile and video chat requests, you need more business and someone guiding you to do more than wait by the phone. Chances are at that point, you are broke, hungry and most likely unemployed.
Voicemail, answering services, phone trees have been part of business going back to the 1920s with switchboards in big companies. You see them in old movies - the ladies in a small room with perfect make-up while on a headset plucking one cord, and taking that cord and connecting it somewhere else - the transfer. The switchboard operator was the first greeter many businesses had. From there, the calls might go to the executive assistant who will decide who gets through to the target or will be sluffed off to the “take a message” status.
Fast forward to today - the age of voice over IP - VOIP. Calls from anywhere and any device can be routed with the same flexibility - anywhere on any device, or multiple devices, this includes video calls. This has allowed us to further customize that initial journey of the first time or repeated caller. We even have the ability to block callers from specific numbers so we never know they tried to reach us. We can send them directly to voicemail with a canned text message letting them know you are unavailable at the moment and will call them back right away.
We have become our own switchboard operators and executive assistants. You would have hired a professional in the past for those positions. Back in switchboard days, you hired entry level people. Why would you do that now? There is too much competition for everyone’s business and attention. Make it count if they call you. Make them feel welcomed after they’ve bothered to click on the phone number on your website to “call 800-555-1212?”. After they’ve bothered to go to your contact page, read your overstuffed business card - another topic - and actually put the digits in their device to start a conversation with you.
Now, you popular people, those with high up positions, those well-connected are most likely inundated with “strangers” calling you - sapping your time, interrupting your day. AND? Do you remember when you were hungry? Do you remember how it felt to have to make those cold calls? How it felt to reach out to someone you met briefly at some crowded event - in person or online? That is still a human. A human earning a living for their families. Give them some dignity rather than disdain.
I fully admit to being annoyed when I get an obvious boiler room call. They are spam, junk, unsolicited solicitation without any goal other than gaining access to my computer, scaring me into thinking I need their service to save me from a virus or donate to some unreputable charity. When I’ve had my coffee, and a decent night’s rest, I can stay composed, polite and quickly end the conversation without being rude.
But what about those callers we WANT calling us? We are on the other line, the call goes to voicemail, unless you have a phone tree set up with a live person answering for you as your executive assistant. You want that message to be SHORT, clean, warm, welcoming. The goal is to get them to LEAVE the message so you can call them RIGHT BACK. They don’t need you telling them what day it is, unless you are at a conference and it will affect your response time. At that point, give them another way to reach someone who can help them fast.
When was the last time you called you?
Try it. Do you like the experience? Is the message even current. Don’t you hate it when you call someone you’ve been waiting on to return from a conference, and Tuesday of the following week their message still says, “Hi, this is Heather, it’s Thursday and I’m at DreamForce through Sunday….” At that point you stop listening and most likely hangup since Heather doesn’t have her act together. First impressions, or even second chance first impressions.
Some ideas for the incoming phone call journey:
- A HUMAN ALWAYS ANSWERS FIRST rather than a phone tree digital switchboard.
- They route the call to your personal number.
- You see the call, you answer or…
- You are on the phone and it goes to voicemail or
- If you don’t answer will it go back to the receptionist with a different moniker so they know it’s a call that came back to them after transferring - this would be handled with more urgency than new calls coming in as they have already spent time calling you, being routed, not reached you and routed back.
Second tree option:
- Calls go right to phone tree.
- Is your last name easy to spell? How about your first name? Make sure if you have that type of “dial by name” system in place, you are in there by FIRST and LAST name.
- If your names are always difficult for people to spell, consider routing by department or a “say the name”. But if people can’t spell your name, they may not be able to SAY your name. Back to call journey 1.
Third tree option:
- All calls go directly to you - your direct line from LinkedIn, your bio on the company site.
- You answer with the attitude this could be “the one” - smile, welcome them, make sure you are in a place you can hear them, even if they have a heavy accent and are in their cars.
Here are some tips for recording your voicemail message:
- Sound upbeat in your message.
- Don’t rush
- Avoid background noise.
- Rehearse or write down your message before recording it.
Blitz Sales Software reminds us to:
- Share basic information:
- If you’re out of the office: - BUT change it when this isn’t true.
- Be courteous of your customers’ time:
- Give them a realistic expectation:
- Catch their attention:
- Prove your attentiveness to voicemail: