Using mobile voice-mail applications to improve client and business relationships.
Since the first generation of the iPhone was announced in the beginning of 2007, Wikipedia reports that cell-phone usage has evolved significantly (2008). From their interactive interface to their increased functionality, mobile phones have made our communication more dynamic, convenient and immediate.
In June of 2008, over 262 million Americans subscribed to a wireless cell-phone plan (CTIA Wireless Association 2008). And of those who use their mobile phone, 51% say they would find it very hard to give up (Pew Internet and American Life Project 2008). Today, most smart phones have cameras, built-in MP3 players and mobile Web access. But despite how “tricked out” phones are these days, let’s not forget the main purpose for which Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone—to transmit and receive sound.
In this article, we provide a new perspective on something we often take for granted—our voice. Although e-mails and text messages can be cost-effective forms of communication, hearing a human voice is invaluable (even if it is in a voice mail) (Alsac 2008). In a study comparing the effects of using voice mail versus text-based e-mails to provide feedback to individuals, those in the voice-mail group found the medium lent itself to a higher degree of perceived intimacy and immediacy in interpersonal relationships (Keil et al. 2002).
Unfortunately, busy schedules can often limit mobile talk time. Missing calls and sending clients directly to voice mail may not be the business message you want to convey. Read on to discover new ways you can enhance your voice-mail features to turn a semiautomated function into a personalized interaction.
YouMail is a service that allows users access to voice mails via e-mail, YouMail website or a mobile device. This is a cost-effective way to avoid using cell-phone minutes to check voice messages. The appeal of YouMail is the ability to customize outgoing messages to specific individuals or a group of contacts. Imagine if your client heard this when he called: “Sorry I missed your call, Steve. I look forward to hearing how you did on last week’s 10K!” This feature can also be used to separate professional from personal greetings, all under the same phone number.
Pros. Web-based interface is extremely easy to use. Create as many personal outgoing messages as you wish.
Cons. It does not sync with a cell-phone address book; individual contacts need to be added manually (which might require extra time).
Grand Central is YouMail, but with more features. It also allows users to receive voice-mail notifications via e-mail or text, as well as personalize outgoing greetings by caller or group. It also allows one to listen in on incoming messages on a cell phone as they are being recorded, which is helpful when deciding whether or not to pick up the call (the way we used to do with home answering machines). You can also record your calls and access those conversations online. This can be resourceful when you want to have important conversations on the record, such as discussions about payments or session scheduling (check your local laws regarding call recordings). Most states require only one party’s consent [yours], but others require both parties to consent. As a consideration, always let your callers know you are recording their conversation).
Despite all of these conveniences, the best part about Grand Central is its call-me button that you can embed on your website or blog. This allows anyone to call you for free directly from the Internet, without having to know your phone number. And as an advantage to the caller, the caller’s ID can also remain private.
Pros. GrandCentral assigns each user one phone number to link to all of the user’s phones (similar to call-forwarding, except to multiple phone numbers).
Cons. GrandCentral was acquired by Google in 2007, and since then account activation has sometimes taken several months after sign-up.
Phonevite is a service where you can send one voice message to a group of people all at once instead of calling each client individually. Send a message saying you will be out of town next week or let your clients know about a new fitness program starting next month. You can also request an RSVP from your recipients where they can enter 1 for yes, 2 for no or 3 for not sure. Imagine asking clients if they’d like to attend an upcoming seminar and then knowing exactly whom to follow up with based on their RSVPs.
Pros. Messages can be sent via e-mail and scheduled in advance.
Cons. Calls from Phonevite show up on caller ID as “unavailable,” which means they may go unanswered or to clients’ voice mail (RSVP features are only available on answered calls).
Gabcast allows anyone to create a message from any phone and feed it into one user account. It is similar to leaving messages on a hotline, but you can have many hotlines under one account. Have clients leave testimonials about training services or provide feedback about a program. These recordings can be embedded on a website or in a blog (with media player included). In addition, users can download recordings as an MP3 file. Those advanced enough in audio production can string together and edit these recordings.
Pros. Recordings can be submitted from any phone internationally.
Cons. Not very intuitive for callers, since they are forced to enter a lot of numbers (Gabcast phone number + user channel code + channel password numbers).
There is no question that the Internet offers a variety of tools to help trainers improve client rapport, but it also enhances the older technologies we still regularly depend on, such as voice mail. With these services, you’ll have your clients wanting to “leave a message after the beep!”