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I’ve always been an early adopter of technology and back in 1989 was when I bought my first cell phone. Cell phones were simple back then; they just made and received telephone calls. They were also a lot more expensive too, ranging anywhere from $0.30 to $0.50 per minute. As you can see from the expense the popularity of the cell phone was not that great back in the late 80s and early 90s. Fast forward to today and the world of the smart phone where every phone carrier offers unlimited airtime for a base price. According to the WorldBank.org here in the United States nine out of ten people have a cell phone. Our habits have changed greatly in the last 25 years with Internet and cell phone technologies. We take instant communication for granted and expect immediate gratification. Although the cell phone is a very efficient way of communicating it’s not always as effective in getting things done.
For me to stay effective and focus on the tasks at hand I’ve had to develop philosophies regarding my use of the cell phone. It’s my belief that I own a cell phone for my benefit and no one else’s, it’s for my convenience. More times than not it’s inappropriate and in some cases it’s illegal to make or receive calls on a cell phone. For instance it’s illegal in some states to drive and use a cell phone at the same time. It’s also illegal to use a cell phone while flying on a plane. It’s inappropriate to use a cell phone say at a restaurant or in the theater. For me it’s also inappropriate to use the cell phone at a customer’s location unless I’m making a call related to the business I’m conducting for that customer.
The biggest problem is managing the incoming calls and to train people who call you. I’ve tried a number of different approaches to this problem. But I find the best approach is not to give out my cell phone number and to use an automatic attendant to direct my calls when away from the office. Yes, you heard me correctly, I don’t give out my cell phone number and it’s not even on my business cards. Your eyebrows may be rising now, especially if you’re in sales but follow along with me.
Basically, I have my office phone forwarded to an automatic attendant when I’m not in the office. My office number is on my business card. The automatic attendant lets the calling party know that I’m away from the office and it offers solutions. The first solution is “press one for immediate assistance” which transfers the call to a live operator who can then direct the caller to the appropriate person. You may want to add additional wording here. For example: “and to check our product pricing or place an order “. The second solution is “press two to try my mobile phone” which gives the calling party the opportunity to transfer to my cell phone in the off chance I answer it. But more importantly it reinforces the fact that they are calling my cell phone and I may not be in the most conducive environment to accept the call. Most people don’t realize that they are calling a cell phone and just want immediate gratification so this second option gives them pause by reminding them it’s my cell phone. The third option is “press three to go into voicemail” which gives the calling party the option to transfer into my voicemail should they consider their call not to be urgent. The automatic attendant then continues on giving out my Email and my mailing and shipping addresses. Below is a sample script that I use for an automatic attendant greeting:
“Thank you for calling company name, Colin Robinson is currently away from the office. For immediate assistance and to check our product pricing or place an order, please press one to transfer to a live operator who can direct your call accordingly. To try Colin Robinson on his mobile phone please press 2. To leave Colin Robinson a voicemail message, press 3.
Alternatively you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Colin Robinson’s shipping and mailing address is 2774 N. Cobb Pkwy., Suite 109 – 333, Kennesaw, GA 30152.”
Having the Email, shipping and mailing address at the end of the greeting helps cut down on those calls asking for this information.
This approach cut down significantly on the number of incoming calls to my cell phone, while still providing a good level of service and support to the calling party. Each call you can eliminate, the more effective you will be at dealing with the tasks at hand.
There are many automatic attendant/virtual PBX services out there you can use. All you have to do is a simple Google search to find one. The one I use is from Evoice.com and I find there service is very simple to setup and easy to use. At the time of this writing, for new subscribers to their service, they were offering one free professionally recorded greeting valued at $25.
Okay, that takes care of the incoming calls. But what about managing voicemails and returning calls? This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. You need to return voicemails on a regular and consistent basis. The rule of thumb I use is not to leave voicemails go unanswered for longer than four hours. I basically return voicemails three times a day, early morning between 8 and 9 AM, at lunch times and between 4 and 5 PM in the afternoon. If you manage your incoming calls then this should not be much of a burden as you won’t have that many voicemails. You may want to leave a greeting on your voicemail stating your return call policy so that your callers know when to expect their call to be returned.
When it comes to checking voicemail, I really dislike calling into my voicemail, listening to the messages and handwriting notes. Let me restate that: I really hate calling into my voicemail, listening to the messages and handwriting notes. Besides I like to have all my messages coming into one place, my email. There are a number of services out there which offer voicemail to text transcriptions. Some of these services are software-based voice to text transcriptions while others are human transcribed services. For voicemails I’ve had a much better success with human transcribed services as opposed to the software-based once. The human transcribed services do a much better job of converting your voicemail to text because a real person understands accents, poor & improper speech, and can account much more easily for a bad telephone line or noise on the line. Once the voicemail has been transcribed it is then sent as an email to your email address along with the audio file as an attachment. You want to use a service that offers a fast turnaround in transcribing your voicemails. Ideally the voicemail should be transcribed to text within five minutes of the message being left. I tried one service that promised a quick turnaround, only to find out their idea of quick was 24 hours. They didn’t exactly fit in with my return call policy.
It’s a lot quicker to read an Email of the voicemail message then it is to call into my voicemail to listen to messages and take notes. Yes, I know about visual voicemail and I have tried it. But visual voicemail is nowhere near as accurate as human transcription services because it is software-based. Since voicemail to text transcriptions are emailed to me, I can copy and paste the text of the voicemail from the email and into the customer’s notes in a CRM. Also, it is much easier to delegate the returning of a voicemail message to another person who is better suited at helping the calling party by simply forwarding the email to them.
The voicemail to text translation service I’m currently using is TalkScribe. Voicemail to text translation services can be expensive. But, if you’re managing your incoming calls then the cost is minimal. The highest I’ve ever paid to TalkScribe is $25 in one month. The time savings and convenience of using this type service is worth a lot more than that.