What is wrong with voice mail?

It’s taken me a while to piece this together, but here goes. Do people have trouble understanding recorded human voices saying anything more complex than “mind the gap”? Or is it just the people I run into?

In the context of voice mail this seems like more of a problem with outgoing rather than incoming messages. I work in a business in which most of our customers are large businesses with a specific sales representative. These sales reps are in the field a lot (hooda thunk it?) so callers are often greeted by voicemails and asked to leave a message. Pretty simple, right? The customer calls her or his sales rep, hears the little greeting, and theoretically leaves a message with an order or a call-back number.

It’s anything but simple. The customer is generally supplied a customer service number (i.e. my number) by the sales rep’s voice mail. Logical enough, but unfortunately, a lot of customers seem to think this means they should not leave a voice mail even when all they want is a call back from a sales rep. Which means a 30-second call taking up one person’s time has become a five-minute call involving two people. If I get three of those per hour it’s a quarter of my work gone into emails with a name and phone number.

Related problems:

I used to use the term “wholly-reliable voice mail” on my home voice mail. A lot of people thought I was making a joke about my voice mail being holy (memo to self: avoid homophones). One person thought this meant it was an answering machine. ?

Sales reps will often leave out-of-office messages if they’ll be gone a few days, specifying the dates that they are gone. Customers do not hear these dates and assume that the sales rep is gone on the day they called. (Yes, the messages should be updated, but it seems pretty easy to conclude that if the voicemail says the rep will be gone on the Tuesday the 10th, it does not mean they will be gone Tuesday the 17th.)

Customers often ask for a specific sales rep when they call. I just transfer them to the sales rep’s phone, which invokes the voice mail if the rep doesn’t pick up in a few rings. Customers often call me seeming quite confused by this. “I asked to speak to John, but I just got a recording. Is there any way I can talk to John?” At this point I suppose they want me to put down my headsite and wander the office?

A lot of times a customer will complain to me that it’s impossible to get ahold of their sales rep. I used to try to figure out what the problem was: “Hey John, one of your big customers can’t get in touch with you. You are checking your voice mail, right?” The reply: “I check my voice mail twice a day at least. I haven’t heard from that customer for months!”


What’s up? Is the customer just so distraught by the shock of the sales rep not being at their desk that they can’t make head or tail of the outgoing message? Are recorded voices harder to understand than live ones? Does leaving a voice mail have some invisible cost to the caller I can’t figure out? (My friends won’t leave me voice mail either, or that’s what the caller ID box imples. They are afraid they would be disturbing something holy?)

I help all the customers I can (which is almost anybody who isn’t placing an order or asking for price quotes), but I can’t figure out why there is so much resistance to going through the proper channels to place orders.

A few reasons why voice mailboxes are not fully utilized:
[ul][li]Some people are intimidated by technology.[/li][li]When you leave a voice message, there is no guarantee that it will ever be heard. Some mailboxes are just black holes.[/li][li]Some lists need a third item. Hi, Opal![/li][/ul]

::At my office, I have a very simple message on my voicemail. “Hi, you’ve reached the voicemail of (my name) with Electronic Newstand, Enews.com. I’m sorry I missed your call. Please leave a message with your name, number & a brief message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you”. Most people leave messages…except my sister who upon getting my voicemail will them E-mail me and say “why aren’t you answering your phone”. UGH! At home, I have a more complicated message. I kinda used one my ex-husband would put on our machine. I ask you to leave your name, birthday, favorite color, favorite song, favortite singer, shoe size, eye color", and about 50 other things. THEN, once it gets through all that, I say “if you’ve listened to all that, you had BETTER leave a message so I can call you back”. Seems to work…except I have people that will actually leave me all that info…like I care…LMAO!

My voicemail message:

“This is AHunter3. I’m sorry, I seem to be out of the office at the moment. Please email me instead at ahunter3@company.com, because if I am at a remote location I will check my email more often than my voice mail.”

which, deciphered, means:

“This is AHunter3. I’m sorry, I seem to be out of the office at the moment, or I’m busy doing something I’m not willing to interrupt. Please email me instead at ahunter3@company.com, because telephones suck and voicemail sucks tenfold and I really hate dealing with it, so I only check it once a day.”

The problem with voicemail:

I don’t want to maintain multiple systems, and I like permanent records of all correspondence. And navigating voicemail menus is like medieval torture. If I had a voicemail system that would do speech recognition and automatically send me an email consisting of the voicemail text, I’d be a lot happier.

Hear here, AHunter3. Voicemail menus are pretty Byzantine. If they all had the same commands, it would be okay. They don’t. I personally have four voicemails, of which I use three pretty regularly (one home, one at my desk phone, and one associated with my work pager). Still, I don’t know if the people who call could handle the difficulty of copying down an email address. :slight_smile: