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How to decide between a voicemail & live answering service?

It’s no surprise that poor call management can lead to lost sales and opportunities. For anyone running a business, irrespective of size, chances are that your phone has been left unmanned and calls have been missed. For some, hiring a receptionist might be out of the question, especially if calls are unpredictable or low in volume. This leaves us with an important question: How can businesses minimise their call abandonment rate at an affordable cost? The simple answer is to use a voicemail or a live answering service. Both options can reduce staff overheads, resulting in direct cost savings for the company.

What is voicemail?

A voicemail is an automatic system that stores messages from callers. Most systems allow you to record a voice prompt or alternatively you can use the automatic greeting on the device.

Pros of Voicemail

1. Businesses can prepare for follow-up calls

Prior to returning the call, you can obtain any documentation, quotes, correspondence, or other information needed to aid the caller. This feature is rather handy for conversations that necessitate some research or lengthy feedback.

2. Callers are not placed on hold

Indeed, it can be frustrating when put on hold, and many customers find the annoyance and the financial implications unacceptable. When using a voicemail system, clients aren’t put on hold. If no one is available to answer the call, a voicemail can be left immediately.

3. You don’t need a secretary or a receptionist

A voicemail can save you money because you don’t need to pay for receptionist or secretary to answer the phone. This is particularly advantageous in circumstances where calls are unpredictable or low in volume. A voicemail means that you can return calls when you’re free, thereby eliminating staff overheads, resulting in direct cost savings for the business.

Cons of Voicemail

1. Abandonment rate

It’s not surprise that call abandonment is high for businesses using a voicemail system. Some people might have the mentality of ‘I’ll call back later’ rather than leaving a message. In the interim, callers may seek alternative suppliers or businesses, resulting in lost leads.

2. Robotic and impersonal

The leading cause for abandoned calls is not having a “human touchpoint.” 1 in 5 calls are lost when the call goes to voicemail or is stuck in IVR menu loop. Callers prefer to speak to human agents, instead of an automated voicemail.

3. Voicemail is full

If a voicemail is full, then it can leave callers with an automated message that states: “The voicemail box of the person you’re trying to reach is full and cannot accept new messages at this time.” This can instil a sense of annoyance and lack of professionalism for businesses using a voicemail as their primary means of communication.

What is a live answering service?

A live answering phone service uses a professional agent to answer missed calls. Depending on your setup, the agent can assist callers, transfer calls, take a message, book appointments etc. The caller’s details and message are then sent to you via email and/or text.

Pros of live answering

1. Available 24/7

With live answering, you always have a professional agent/virtual receptionist ready to answer calls round-the-clock. Every inbound call is answered whether it’s on overflow, after business hours, or when you’re on leave. Live answering ensures that your clients have a personalised point of contact 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

2. More personal and friendly

When you can’t answer the phone, the call is diverted to a professional and friendly operator. With a human on the other line, customer is more likely to feel more connected and comfortable. Some callers find it easier to speak to a live operator rather than leaving a message with a machine.

3. Never miss a call again

Live answering ensures that no call is missed. From a customer perspective it can be frustrating when the person you are trying to reach doesn’t answer, or the call diverts to an automated voicemail. With live answering, businesses can rest assured that all calls will be answered by a real human.

4. Advanced features

An array of add-ons and advanced features can be added to live answer services, such as appointment setting, cold or warm transfers, email and text notification for new messages. Most importantly, the service is customisable to your exact needs and specifications.

Cons of live answering

1. Hold times

A live answering provider takes calls on behalf of many clients. This means that there will be peaks and troughs with respect to the number of incoming calls. Resources are catered to handle these spikes in call volumes, however, it can occasionally result in hold times.

2. Room for error

Given that the calls are answered by humans, there is always the potential for error. Some agents might accidentally take the wrong call path. On some occasions, details might be incorrectly logged. Nonetheless, these errors are rare if a reputable live answering provider is selected and a well-designed script is implemented for the agent to follow.

Deciding between voicemail and a messaging service

Selecting the right system boils down to your business’s needs, budget and call volume. If your business is starting out, or your primary means of communication is social media or email correspondence, then we recommend using a voicemail for those occasional calls that come through. By contrast, a live answering service might be more suitable for businesses who receive numerous calls throughout the day and after-hours. It is also a great option for overflow calls.

We recommend having a chat with one of our friendly consultants at TMC. At the end of the day, you have nothing to lose!