Should Small Businesses Ditch Voicemail?

Small business owner checking voicemail

How do you reach your customers and how do they reach you?

We’re not talking about the online storefront you just unveiled, or the color mailers going out to your target neighborhoods. We mean talking to your clients the good old fashioned way, on the phone.

And when you don’t reach them, do you leave voicemail?

This week, both Time Magazine and NPR highlighted decisions by large companies like JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Coca-Cola to phase out voicemail for most of their employees.

Voicemail In the Age of Instant Messaging

Many workers don’t see much value in voicemail, saying they don’t have time to manage it and that responding by text, Twitter or instant messaging is far more efficient. An employee can respond instantly to a text during a meeting instead of waiting perhaps an hour or so to listen to a voice message and then call the customer back. These days, voicemail just seems so clumsy—only six percent of Coca-Cola workers chose to keep the service on their office phones.

Yet the real reason big organizations are cutting voicemail is to save money. JPMorgan Chase & Co. saved $10 per employee, which translates into $8 million in annual savings. Cutting voicemail for almost 95 percent of their workforce will save Coca-Cola plenty too.

How About You?

Small business owners, we suggest you consider carefully before following suit. The relationship between SMBs and their voicemail service is different. Think about how you use voicemail.

An executive at a large bank may use a unified communications platform that includes messaging, video conferencing and document sharing among staff on various business teams. He may have little need to call and leave a message for a vendor or colleague.

As a small-business owner, however, you probably need to talk directly to your customers and suppliers. Your phone line is your life line to those who make your business a success. If you can’t be at the phone all day, you will miss calls and lose sales.

Hosted phone services like Phone.com include a service that can transcribe your voicemail messages to email or text notifications. And therein lies the power of voicemail for small businesses!

Some key thoughts on the importance of voicemail to small businesses:

  • Smaller businesses may be abandoning the desk phone in favor of mobile, but they still reply on voicemail to stay directly in touch with customers and vendors.
  • As the smartphone becomes the device of choice, so voicemail transcribed to text (and messaging in general) become indispensable.
  • You’re very busy! Voicemail-to-text saves you and your customers time. Callers can leave a quick message when they can’t reach you. You get that message and can respond almost immediately.
  • When you’re out of the office or in a meeting, voicemail-to-text lets you know callers are trying to reach you, even if you can’t respond right away.
  • Voicemail-to-text is visual—you don’t need to interrupt the flow of a meeting to listen to a message. A quick glance tells you all you need to know.
  • Finally, many of your customers might not be tech savvy. Some may still prefer calling and leaving a voice message, instead of texting, tweeting or emailing you for support.

So before you cut your voicemail service, consider forwarding your messages to text, and using it to make yourself more accessible to your customers.