Back in the good old days, we could count on talking directly to the owner of the general store any time of day, any day of the week. Today, there simply isn't enough time for business owners to be personally available to every customer.
So what's the answer? Ironically, technology might be the way to personalize our impersonal world--and, at the same time, provide an excellent marketing opportunity. Effective marketing means being able to set yourself apart from your competition by offering ways to save your customers time and frustration. Consumers want customization, convenience and speed in accessing products and services, and technology can provide all those things--particularly in the area of voice-messaging systems.
Leann Anderson is the owner of Anderson Business Resources, a Greeley, Colorado, company specializing in customer service, marketing and business etiquette. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Use Your Voice...Mail
Using voice messaging to help manage incoming calls is not only smart, it's expected in today's business world. Although we frequently complain about voice mail, studies show that when it isn't available, or when some form of answering system isn't in place, we don't like it. We want to be able to leave a message and not call back multiple times to reach someone.
The first step to using phone answering technology as a marketing strategy is to toss out your old answering machine and acquire a commercial voice-messaging service through a software package or the service provided by your local phone company. Although there is a monthly charge, it offers more reliable service and many more options, and makes your company appear more professional.
Voice-mail technology can do a lot more than record an incoming message. For example, you can change your greeting frequently and include a marketing message along with it: "Hello, you've reached Wild Flower Landscaping, where this month your consultation and design fee is waived with the purchase of any new sprinkler system. Just leave your name, phone number and a message, and we will return your call within 24 hours. Thanks for choosing Wild Flower." You can also let your callers know when you'll return, what your business hours are or other key information you want to pass along. With many voice-mail systems, callers can mark their calls "urgent" if they need to hear back from you right away.
Many systems have a feature that changes your greeting based on the time of day; one greeting is heard during regular hours, another after hours. This greeting can tell people when you will be open again and ask them to call back or leave a message.
Voice-mail systems can also reinforce marketing messages about current sales or future promotions. Just think of it: Every time someone calls your company, they'll hear about a key marketing event.
Voice messaging can improve productivity by channeling calls to the right person the first time. Personalized voice-mail boxes not only demonstrate efficiency but also convey an impression that yours is a sizable, established business. There's no better way to burst your marketing balloon than to promote a product or service that can't be obtained because customers keep getting a busy signal or a defective answering machine, or leave their message with someone who doesn't get the request right.
Some systems offer a feature that allows key customers to have their own mailboxes on your system. This is a great marketing extra for businesspeople who have clients or customers who need special attention. These customers can call their mailboxes at your business and leave you a confidential message, or they can even pick up a message that has been left for them.
There are countless ways technology can help you do more than conduct "business as usual." Voice-messaging systems are just one way to let technology be your partner.