Answering serviceMany small businesses are beginning to realize that relying on their voicemail -- for calls they can’t answer -- is not a good idea. I remember getting my first cell phone in 1988.  It was a Motorola “brick phone” also called a Dynatac. I lived on the mid-coast of Maine and had recently founded my first company, an environmental engineering firm.  No one in Maine had seen anything like it before. 

Even back then, voicemail came standard with my service contract. 

Between then and now, cell phones have become ubiquitous with small business owners. In fact, 91% of adults now use cell phones according to Pew Research.  However between then and now, voicemail has changed drastically.

Today most small businesses still use the voicemail that comes with their cellular service. But, things are changing. The number of freelancers and solopreneurs has increased from 15 million in the nineties to over 45 million today. Many are predicting they will comprise half the US workforce (75 million) by 2020. This silent transition of the US workforce is having a significant impact on both enterprise businesses and the new Freelance community.  Freelancers and solopreneurs are now facing a much more competitive environment.

Forbes reported that 80% of callers that are sent to voicemail, hang up and the New York Times reported that 30% of messages never get listened to for at least three days and 20% of people that have voicemail, never even check it. Certainly the mandatory instructions, imposed by the carriers, have something to do with this. 

For the small businesses that finally realize that voicemail is hurting their business, the only alternative is an answering service, but most answering services are using outdated technology connected to the public telephone service and have poor service reputations.

However, cloud-based companies, like Salesforce, are providing entrepreneurs the capability to build the next generation of answering services. One company, US Answer, based in Portland, Maine, has developed an answering service and mobile app by integrating the Salesforce platform with 8x8’s Contactual, cloud based, contact center software, connected to the voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) network. Because they are completely cloud-based, they can offer small businesses an efficient and professional answering service at a fraction of what they would be charged by other answering services. Because of new features in Salesforce, US Answer was able to develop a mobile app that allows their small business customers to directly interact with them, such as updating their availability to receive a transferred call.

Expect to see other businesses emerging to offer small businesses cost effective alternatives to voicemail. Also expect a tipping point to occur as more and more small businesses realize how much voicemail is hurting their business.


About the Author

FOnce lead engineer on the cleanup of the nations worst hazardous waste sites, Jim entered the digital world in 1999, founding (think Air B&B 1.0).  Jim is presently Co-Founder and CEO of US Answer. US Answer is cloud-based answering service and mobile app built on native to Salesforce and the only small business answering service that delivers your sales leads directly into Salesforce. Follow him on Twitter at @jayplunk and@USAnswer1

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