Imagine, for a moment, that your dishwasher is broken. Your kitchen is starting to flood. You panic. You freak out. You try to find your plumber’s number—the same plumber you’ve been going to your entire adult life, someone who’s earned your loyalty—and you call them up. It rings only once. Then you hear on the other end of the line:
We’re sorry. We can’t come to the phone right now…
How frustrating is that? Well, if you’ve ever been sent to voicemail before, you know that it can feel like a punch in the gut. It has a real emotional impact, because it means that someone on the other end couldn’t or didn’t want to talk to you at that moment.
If you’re a paying customer or client, it can be that much more insulting. Here you are, paying that business your money, and they won’t even answer your calls?
If you vow to never do that to your own clients and customers, that’s good. In fact, it can provide you with a serious competitive advantage. Did you know that the majority of businesses don’t even bother to answer client calls? If you simply commit to having a better answering service with your phones, you’ll already be part of the top 36% of businesses that do make it a priority.
What’s more, some client calls are time-sensitive. If a business has an emergency that only your company can handle, and they’re willing to pay you $500 an hour just to help them out, you’re only going to find that out if you pick up the phone.
As the old saying goes, 90% of success in life is in showing up.
Well, in business, the same could be said about picking up the phone when someone important is calling. Here’s exactly why—and how—you can stop sending every call to voicemail.
The Problem: Avoiding Distractions
For everything we said above about voicemail, let’s be honest: it has its uses. Perhaps most importantly, voicemail helps us avoid distractions. In fact, it can cost you about 23 minutes of recovery time just to get over a distraction that interrupts your workflow.
If you work in a focus-sensitive business, it might be hard to see any other option but to send someone to voicemail. Say you’re a freelance writer who needs periods of intense concentration to get work done. You might not be able to answer the phone when another client calls you. Or let’s use the plumbing example from above. It might not be that you have anything against your customers. You simply need to focus on fixing that leaky faucet.
We’re not going to tell you that you need to do away with voicemail permanently. But if you have noticed that many of your most important calls are slipping through the cracks of voicemail, it may be time to reevaluate the communication systems you have in place.
What Happens When You Rely Too Heavily on Voicemail
Like all tools, voicemail is here to serve you. The problem occurs when voicemail is becoming your tool for avoiding business, not for getting better at it.
How do you know if you’re relying too heavily on voicemail?
- When people stop calling you. Let’s say you have a great repeat client. They’re always willing to offer you their business. But if you start to take them for granted, you might also send them to voicemail once or twice. The problem isn’t that they’re locked in voicemail. The problem arises when you notice that they’ve stopped calling you altogether. It means they’ve moved on—and that your inability to communicate was the dealbreaker.
- When you miss opportunities. Imagine another scenario. A potentially lucrative client is calling you with a time-sensitive project. But by the time you get around to checking your voicemail, the deadline has already passed. Maybe you didn’t want the job; but what if you did? Missed opportunities like these can become problematic, especially when you’re self-employed and have to take on opportunities to keep your income up. If you’re missing any opportunities because you let a customer go to voicemail, something is amiss.
- You’re losing touch with your customer sentiment. It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers. Are they raving about your services? Are they telling their friends about you? Check your most recent voicemails and see what’s happening. If you find yourself deleting old voicemails without even listening, that can be even worse. It means you’re not getting the feedback of your customers, and you’re not paying attention to how the market is shifting around you.
- You get bad reviews online. Let’s be honest: people don’t like going to voicemail because we all need to feel valued. But if you can’t figure out why your service reviews are getting worse and worse on Google Reviews, you may want to think about how often you’re sending customers to voicemail. Sure, you might provide good service when you show up. You might be polite, and you might have friendly interactions with customers. But if it took four calls to reach you, they’re still going to have a negative impression of your service.
Build a New System That Avoids Voicemail and Distractions
You might already know all this. The question isn’t whether sending people to voicemail is a bad idea. The question is how you can implement a system that both keeps you focused and keeps you responsive. You can’t exactly be in two places at once.
What do you do? Turn to a phone answering service. This gives you the infrastructure you need to accomplish two things at once, even if you’re not the one answering your phones:
- Someone is on your phones. This means that no customer is wondering why you gave them one ring before sending them to voicemail. Instead, when they call you, they hear someone on the other end. It immediately creates a personal connection. Even if they want to talk to you, the fact that they at least hear someone on the other line shows that someone cares. Expect customers to feel better about your customer service simply by having this system in place.
- You can still filter out distracting calls. Remember how we said that one advantage of voicemail is that it lets you filter out distractions? There’s no reason you can’t be responsive to those customers who need responses while also filtering out distractions. You can have your phone answering service step in and serve as a smart filter between you and the world. You’ll be free to focus when you need to, but you’ll also be free to take a call when there’s an emergency. This won’t only improve your customer service. It will improve your peace of mind.
Done right, your answering service can be the perfect medium between eliminating distractions and staying in touch with your customers. More importantly, your customers won’t have to wonder where you are. When they call, someone answers. And when it comes time for them to leave that service review, they’ll remember that.
An answering service can also be the perfect solution to ensuring you never miss another opportunity to increase your business. Curious to know how much a missed call is costing you? Find out with our Missed Call Calculator.