FACT: Everyone hates voicemail. While there are few absolutes in life or business, this one I think is a universal reality.
Voicemail is despised because the value of messages fluctuates from high to no value. Short messages are often important: “Hey Russ, call me back ASAP so I can finish the project,” and long messages are generally unimportant: “Hi Russ, my name is Jane Doe and I am calling from So & So Widgets, an undifferentiated company that specializes . . . (39 seconds of babble) . . . call me back so we can discuss.”
Add on the fact that voicemail is often tied to a single phone or delivered in a way that is inconvenient and you have a nightmare scenario. Imagine someone listening to one of your personal voicemails that is left on a phone in a conference room you used or in a temporary office!
Good news: There is light at the end of the tunnel that makes “dealing with voicemail” better.
- Voicemail access is becoming ubiquitous. Many of the cell carriers and business phone providers are now giving you the ability to get messages on other devices. When your phone system is “in the cloud,” getting messages should be easy! With most systems, you can usually dial into your own phone number to get messages and newer unified communications systems let you have messages delivered to email as an attachment. Double-click or download to listen. The best providers let you do both, but keep an eye out for “additional fees may apply” restrictions!
Take it a step further and look to see if your provider has any smartphone apps or specialized websites so you can easily access messages.
- Filtering the good from the bad is another key to voicemail success. Once you have access, use the “meta data” included with the messages (caller ID, Phone number, message length etc.) to prioritize your time. Delete one- or two-second messages—they are always a hang up. Then, listen to messages from your important contacts and triage the rest. Long messages are rarely important or if they are, they are rarely “complete,” meaning you will have to follow up. After a few seconds of a long message, you know if it should get deleted or flagged for further action.
- Never listen to messages again . . . seriously! I am a complete convert to voicemail transcription, even though most systems produce hysterically inaccurate messages. The fact is, most of us only need a few pieces of information from the voicemail message: a) who called and b) the gist of why they called. And even if all goes wrong, if you have the recording you can always fall back on listening . . . For most business people computer transcriptions give you enough of the details to let you triage messages from your inbox, either on your smartphone or laptop. Voicemail can now be read anywhere, even during important meetings instead of stepping out or while you are checking out at the grocery store. Being “all-in” the cloud has lots of advantages.
If the average employee has just five messages a day and each is just 30 seconds long (5 x 30 x 20 business days), that saves an hour of just listening to messages a month!
How much is an extra hour worth to you?
Voicemail can be a major pain point for organizations of all sizes, but as companies migrate to newer cloud-based systems, the ability to “deal with” voicemail is becoming easier.