Voice Mail Systems
Voice mail is a phrase often used to describe one element of a solution that includes voice mail. Most systems offering voice mail also provide auto attendant functionality as well as the ability to provide delayed announcements which can be played to callers waiting to be answered.
These systems need to be integrated to the telephone system they are being used within some way. In most cases we would recommend that the telephone system manufacturer and voice mail manufacturer would be one and the same to avoid issues. Most new systems today would have a voice mail system that resides on either a solid state drive or even flash memory and would be installed inside the telephone system server. Older systems would use a card that would occupy a slot inside the telephone system. This type of technology started to materialize around 2005, before that external voice mail systems were the norm and were often PC based.
Once a message is received in a voice mail box, the mailbox user needs to be notified that there is a message. Internally on the telephone system this would usually be achieved with a message waiting light along with additional information which could be shown in the liquid crystal display of the telephone. This information might include the number of messages and even whether they are new and unread or saved. Externally the voice mail system can dial an external number to notify the user. This external number could be a cell phone, pager or even home phone. More advanced systems can deliver this notification via email or text messaging and some systems even allow the voice mail message to be attached as a file so the voice mail message can be listened to without having to dial in and retrieve it. Delivering voice mail as email is one of the more advanced features and is part of what is referred to as Unified Communications or UC.
Why use voice mail?
Whilst some people prefer to communicate with each other in real time, there is a place for many of the features a voice mail system or Unified Communications can bring to a business. If there is a requirement to ask or answer questions that do not need complex discussions, voice mail provides a perfect way to leave a message or reply to a message. If your desk or cube is littered with message pads and Post It notes you might be a perfect candidate! If you have staff who are not always behind a desk or you trade across multiple time zones voice mail is a tool that will provide invaluable. Remember you can even use voice mail to take a call even when you are at your desk-often the call is less important that the work you are doing so don’t let every call interrupt what you are doing-at home you let calls go to the answerphone when you are having dinner so you can do the same at work.
Again many people do not like to be answered by an auto attendant (AA) and many business owners insist on answering all calls with a live person. Consider this, it is likely that even when you are answered by a live person you will need to be transferred to someone else in the business who may or may not be available to take the call so the caller might still end up on hold for long periods of time or end up in voice mail. In the case any customer service benefits have been lost. The key really is to record well thought out high quality greetings and menu options so that callers can route themselves to their ultimate destination. A word of caution here-use terminology that the caller can understand and not terminology that is only familiar to the people who work there. Using a live operator you do not have control of the tone of the voice and the mood of the person answering the calls, you do have control with an AA. Even after answering thousands of calls the “smile” in the voice will be evident-providing the greetings was recorded with a smile.
Delayed Announcement Messages
This is another feature offered as part of many voice mail systems. This feature will give you the ability to play a message to someone who is waiting to be answered. It could be used as a safety net if you prefer to answer live to let callers know that you are there, perhaps helping other callers and that you are open for business. Equally it can be used to tell people when you are closed and perhaps give them an option to leave a message in a “general mailbox” which will be dealt with on the next working day. If you have areas of your business where multiple people can help callers you might send these types of calls to a “hunt group” or queue and here again delayed announcements can be used to reassure people that they will be dealt with soon-just like when you go into your favorite coffee shop or bar, when it’s busy the barista or bartender will look over and tell you that you will dealt with soon-you can do the same. Some systems also give you the ability to play estimated wait time and position in queue to callers waiting to be answered.