Category: Answering Service

1 in 5 Companies Force Callers to Use Voicemail

21% of businesses subjected their customers to impersonal automation, leaving a bad first impression

When you call a company, do you hope it has voicemail?

The only time voicemail is desirable is when the caller wants to avoid talking to a real person and just leave a message. And that doesn’t happen too often.

Most of the time callers don’t want to reach voicemail. They’re calling for a reason, and they want an answer – now. Usually when customers call, they have an urgent problem or a pressing question, and they want help right away; they want a person who can assist them, not an automated machine that can’t. “Voicemail has its place, but it slows communication and delays problem resolution,” says industry expert Angela Garfinkel, president of Quality Contact Solutions.

Yet the reality at too many businesses doesn’t align with the expectations of callers. According to the latest research, 21 percent of companies tested greeted their callers with an impersonal recording. That’s one out of five businesses that disrespected their callers and effectively pushed them away. Voicemail actually encourages callers to hang up and call the company’s competitor. Today customers have options and those options are only a phone call or click away.

A team of trained testers placed these calls over the course of nine days, from May 2 through May 10, 2016. “A total of 893 businesses were contacted and the results of the calls tabulated,” said the research coordinator Bill Haack, who oversaw the four expert agents who placed the calls. “The dismal response appalled me, especially because these companies rely on the telephone to get more business.”

“Voicemail is designed to benefit the company, not the caller,” notes Adam Berkson, president of LiveVoice.

The sad reality is that corporate cost cutting has conditioned callers to accept voicemail as an inevitable outcome when trying to do business with a company. They call desiring an immediate response. Instead they here a recording and a beep. “They leave a message and wonder how long they will need to wait for a call back,” Berkson added.

Eventually they question if they will ever receive a call from that company. Should they call again or contact another business? Maybe a different company will have a real person to talk to.

The key, however, is to never force callers to contemplate such questions in the first place. Smart business managers make sure their callers’ first impression with their company is not at the mercy of a machine but in the hands of a real person.

And when they can’t handle the phone calls themselves, they hire an answering service or virtual receptionist service to handle it for them, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. This treats the caller in the best possible way.

Peter DeHaan, PhD, is a freelance writer, call center authority, and publisher of Connections Magazine, which covers the call center industry.